Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

A Ghost Bike appears at scene of tragedy

Posted by on October 12th, 2007 at 1:22 am


The Ghost Bike at
W. Burnside and 14th.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

I just returned from the scene of today’s incident.

I spent the last several hours just being at the intersection where this tragedy occurred. I rode in the bike lane where the 19 year-old Salem woman last rode, I talked with passersby. But mostly, I just sat and thought.

Then, just before midnight, I watched two local cyclists chain a Ghost Bike to the pole.

Now, just a few feet from the fateful collision, there is a stark reminder that “A cyclist was killed here”.

Tonight’s memorial ride is an opportunity to come together with other cyclists and express your condolences to the victim’s friends. It will be a respectful and solemn procession. I hope you’ll join us.

Meet at 6:00 pm at west end of the Burnside Bridge.

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  • bikenyc October 12, 2007 at 6:35 am

    People, y\’all should watch the syntax. Using the passive voice and saying things like \”a cyclist was killed\” diverts blame and hides the true nature of the incident: which is that a car killed a cyclist.

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  • Tiago October 12, 2007 at 8:11 am

    We\’re all guilty about this.
    For how long have we known that traffic related incidents are the biggest cause of death for people in the ages of 15 to 35? And yet, we accept this as just statistics, and not a social and structural problem. Even those of us who realize that, can\’t get pass, sometimes, the \”Share The Road\” pacifier.
    We silently accept that our lives are being gambled for the sake of the modern ways of life.
    She\’s a victim of the times, and we are all socially responsible for allowing the times to be just like this.
    Nothing extraordinary happened at the scene, it was a moment of distraction from who knows where now, that defined the fate of this girl. We\’re all humans and we can\’t see everything all the time, but yet we permit that operations that require a super human amount of concentration to be one of the most common activities in our daily lives.

    Not seeing a problem with this is like G Bush calling the civilian deaths in a war \”collateral damage\”. Blaming one person on either side is cowardice, we\’re the ones that set-up the stage for this, and we are the ones that can stop this nonsense, anytime.

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  • Steve Brown October 12, 2007 at 8:21 am

    We need to change the law!!! I have been hit in a bike lane by a car turning right. The driver could have seen me if they had just looked. In California, a motor vehicle making a right hand turn is required to occupy the bike lane. It is very simple and makes a lot of sense. If the car gets there first, they can go first, just like we all have to wait at any intersection for the vehicle got there first.
    The first rule for any motor vehicle operator is that you cannot drive when and where you cannot see.
    If the driver of the cement truck cannot see a cyclist when they cross the bike lane they cannot make the right hand turn. It is very simple. The driver may not have been able to see the cyclist. If so his mirrors are not appropraite or not proplerly positioned.
    As a cyclist my first rule is to be seen. I will not enter into any situation where I do not feel the drive can see me. But that does not excuse the driver from looking and being responsible for not seeing the cyclist.

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  • tonyt October 12, 2007 at 8:59 am

    Hey bikenyc, now is not the time for syntax lectures.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  • Bicycledave October 12, 2007 at 9:05 am

    I agree that we need a change, but I don\’t want cars occupying the bike lane.

    I like the bike box idea (mentioned recently in this article on bikeportland.org)that is used extensively in Europe. An area at the front of the intersection is painted and reserved for bikes. At a red light the bikes can pull into and fill up this area in front of the cars. When the light turns green the bikes get to go first.

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  • peejay October 12, 2007 at 9:10 am


    I think the point bikenyc is making is that the syntax changes the meaning. Language communicates meaning through syntax. The passive voice puts focus on the victim, which is necessary, but also not the only message we need to convey. How about: \”A motorist killed a cyclist here\”? Both are valid and important messages.

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  • tonyt October 12, 2007 at 9:23 am

    peejay and bikenyc,

    I get it. I understand.

    But sometimes brevity enhances where details obscure.

    \”A cyclist was killed here.\”

    It\’s short and to the point. It leaves the reader to fill in the story. More thought. More engagement.

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  • Doug October 12, 2007 at 9:38 am

    All of this really, really sucks.

    I\’m confused though – OregonLive right now says the following: \”Tracey Sparling, 19, of Salem, was stopped at a red light while on her bike at Northwest 14th and Burnside Street and began to turn onto Burnside\” [link to story below]. I thought she was going straight, and the truck was turning right?

    I\’m not trying to create a case for anything here, I just want to understand what happened.


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  • Jerry H October 12, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Just a nit:

    When I read \”today\’s incident\” I was thinking something minor. Many readers might take the word incident as meaning something relatively minor.

    The NTSB defines incident as something relatively minor while it defines accident as an event that causes major damage, injury or death.

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  • Stuart October 12, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Peejay is right, syntax is very important. To even say so sounds ridiculous because it should go without saying that syntax can alter the percieved truth content of a given situation. When a press release is eroneously worded it is very important that we recognize this. Anyhow, I welcome all opinions on proper syntax for important situations.

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  • tonyt October 12, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Hey Doug,

    I just emailed the writer of that article and she just wrote me back admitting that that was an error on her part. It will be corrected.

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  • tonyt October 12, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Doug, I agree. I don\’t mind discussions of syntax. Lectures on the other hand, that start with, \”People, y\’all should watch the syntax\” don\’t sit well especially at this time.

    Was bikenyc out at midnight putting up a ghostbike?

    A little diplomacy and sensitivity, AND syntax go a long way.

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  • tonyt October 12, 2007 at 10:31 am

    I meant to address Stuart, not Doug in post #11.


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  • Ron F. October 12, 2007 at 10:32 am

    May she rest in peace.

    My thoughts go out to the family, friends, and biking community. I doubt I\’ll ride through an intersection again without some thought of this tragedy.


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  • tonyt October 12, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Sheesh, I\’m a mess, I meant post 12 not 11.

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  • superletour October 12, 2007 at 10:49 am

    While I think communicating about how people feel about certain words here is important, what I think we all need to be doing is taking a few extra minutes out of our busy riding days to go pay a visit to this spot. I\’m headed there right now if anyone wants to join, before the memorial ride.

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  • JT October 12, 2007 at 10:49 am

    guys…drop the syntax crap…nows now the time…or place. this is not ABOUT YOU.

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  • Colonel October 12, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Great work and thanks to the ghostbike crew. I stop and reflect every time I see a ghost bike, and it makes me more cautious and glad to be alive.

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  • Tankagnolo Bob October 12, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Be carefull out there. Always avoid being in a drivers blind spot whan going streight. Try to make eye contact, and if the vehicle is even slightly ahead of you, don\’t move out until the vehicle has clearly choosen its direction. We shouldnt have to drive defensivly, but then again, we have no airbags, so we must.

    Any near wrecks I have had with cars in my fifty years of cycling has been just that, the right turn from the car.

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  • Matt October 12, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I was once kindly corrected at an open house by a city employee when i used the word accident in front of them. Apparently the city are not allowed to refer to crashes as \”accidents\”. The reason I was given is that statistically most traffic \”accidents\” are preventable, and thus are referred to as crashes. You will not see \”neighborhood accident data maps\” at open houses, but you will see \”neighborhood crash maps\”.

    Very, very tragic either way.

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  • Blue commute October 12, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    While I think it\’s important to make people aware of the death of a cyclist from the placement of a ghost bike, and a slow ride tonight is very much in order, can\’t we do more when this happens? Not everyone will witness or be a part of the ride tonight, and not everyone passes by ghost bikes. However, if you ride on surface streets anywhere in Portland, you will see cyclists, and often many of them. My thought is a week or so after a death we [cyclists] wear a black arm band, or something denoting a move in solidarity. A wider array of people may then be aware of the reason behind every cyclist wearing a similar thing and thus may be more aware and thoughtful when interacting with a cyclist, and isn\’t that what we hope for?

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  • Tim October 12, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    As far as syntax goes, I\’d suggest \”a cyclist died here.\”

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  • Alisa October 12, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Tracey\’s family, friends to anyone else who has encountered her.It seemed that she had such promise. I\’m glad to know that there\’s a ghostbike set up. I plan to stop by today.

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  • Hanmade October 12, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Can the ghost bike become permanent place there? It would be a memorial and a reminder to bicyclists and drivers alike that total awareness is necessary 100% of the time. Seeing it should startle us awake to the dangers of traffic, and would give us pause to reflect upon the life sacrificed there. A ghost bike memorial should be placed permanently wherever this type of tragedy has occurred

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  • Thoughts on Riding Safely » patch October 12, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    […] on the placement of a ghost bike at the scene Oregonian ghost bike story BikePortland.org report on no traffic citation for the […]

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  • organic brian October 12, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    For those who have been wondering how to be involved in Ghost Bike memorials, there is an email list for planning:

    This is a worldwide list, but most subscribers are in Portland/Seattle/Pittsburgh. Also, website for Ghost Bikes:

    One important need for GB memorials: people to adopt a memorial. This would mean occasionally checking up on your \”child\” memorial, and fixing vandalism or replacing the GB if it gets taken.

    Also, let\’s revive the trafficsafety list, which was created to discuss what we can do about dangerous motorists. There had been monthly safe-driving awareness \”SafeTEA Parties\” going on, but these died out as a result of too few organizers. Can we get these going again? It would just take a few more dedicated people for this to be a monthly occurrence.

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  • Stuart October 12, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Well said JT, this is not about me. Language is about all of us. I do however understand your underlying sentiment, this is indeed an awful situation that is very difficult to grasp. Some of us jump between understanding with heavy emotional tones and trying to use logic and reasoning to asess everything we can. I suppose neither can ever really explain this away. I\’m having a hard time getting this out of my mind. I\’m pretty sure all of us cyclists that didn\’t know her are taking this hard because it is so close to home. I\’m so very very sorry for her family and friends.

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  • Vanessa Renwick October 12, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    I just returned from a week in Seattle where I was a pedestrian the entire time, except for one short car trip. As I began to walk around downtown and Capital Hill I was shocked to find out that cars and people both act very differently in Seattle than they do in Portland. When I first noticed this, I had come to a busy street and was going to wait at the corner to cross after the street was clear of cars, which were approaching from both ways. To my surprise, the cars stopped on both sides of the road and let me cross.
    There are numerous crosswalks painted all over town, and even without a crosswalk painting. cars always stopped for me to cross, even if they were the only one coming down the street, and it would have been easy for them to whiz by before I even got to the middle of the street anyway.
    I found my own behavior changing as well. I would wait patiently at crosswalks where there were lights. No one jaywalked in that town, or walked against a red, something I do frequently if there are no cars coming.
    I grew up in Chicago, and was a bike messenger there as well. The city has a Pacman mentality when it comes to getting around, and it is deep within me. But in Seattle this week I found myself happy to wait with other pedestrians, returning the huge respect that I was receiving from cars in Seattle.
    Why do cars have such power in Portland, the supposed #1 bike town in the USA?
    I have lived near Irving Park for 17 years now. Numerous times there have been petitions to get a crosswalk in for kids to cross safely across Fremont St. These never go through. Why can we not take an example from Seattle and put numerous crosswalks everywhere, and teach cars that they have to yield when they see a human on a bike or on foot?
    I am deeply saddened by this death and my thoughts are with those who knew her.

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  • Lee Hoffman October 12, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    I have just returned home from the procession,I am emotionally drained,I am first and foremost proud of the cyclist that joined us,What grace and sensitivity.I am also so Happy that the great people from The B.T A were present,I call you folks my friends ,Michelle B . If you read this ,know this . just seeing you there helped me in no small measure.Danny from the bike Portland .org dude you rock what calm and professionalism under horrible circumstances.I am honored to know you all Lee

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  • Red Light « What I Saw from My Bike Today October 17, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    […] killed on 14th and Burnside when a cement truck turned right across her bike lane. The same day, a Ghost Bike appeared at the […]

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  • What’s New With Mick :: Deadly right hook March 30, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    […] but quite telling. The Oregonian also has a story and a similar photo. Somebody has already placed a “ghost bike” at the scene and a memorial ride is schedule for […]

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