*Read this story for the update.*
The ghost bike for Brett Jarolimek has gone missing, and the disappearance is most likely the work of pranksters or thieves who want to sell it for scrap.
The memorial, which was chained to a traffic pole on N. Interstate Ave. just north of Greeley, was not only a tragic reminder of Brett’s life and the community’s loss, but it served as a remembrance of Brett for his friends and the many commuters who pass by this location daily.
It was stolen sometime on Tuesday night. Word of its disappearance first came in the form of a comment from one of Brett’s friends, Corey Omey. The news was also posted on the mailing list of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA).
After visiting the scene myself to confirm the bike was missing, I tracked down Mike Mason of ODOT. I worked with Mason when I covered ODOT’s decision to remove the stencil of Brett at the same location. After making a few phone calls to his work crews, Mason was able to confirm that ODOT had nothing to do with the removal of the bike.
Since jurisdiction over these things can get very complicated, and since the bike was attached to a traffic pole, I then called PDOT’s Bureau of Maintenance to find out if they were responsible. I got in touch with Tim Thrienen, the supervisor of PDOT’s street cleaning and emergency clean-up division. Thrienen was well aware of the significance of this memorial and called around to investigate. He even sent out a truck to view the scene.
After our conversation, Thrienen called me back and confirmed that no one at PDOT had removed the bike.
I also talked to Carl Larson, the man responsible for erecting Brett’s ghost bike just after midnight on that sad October night. Carl said the bike was locked with an inexpensive chain that could have been easily cut.
All this leads me to believe that the bike was most likely taken by a thief to sell for metal scrap. Metal theft, which is often tied to the the meth epidemic, is a growing problem in Portland.
But it’s worth noting that a metal sculpture, created by Matt Cartwright and placed at the site in Brett’s honor, remains.
So far, I haven’t heard of any plans to replace Brett’s ghost bike. If anyone does, perhaps a higher quality chain should be used.