Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Ghost bike returned, thief ‘truly sorry’

Posted by on February 15th, 2008 at 10:42 am

Brett's ghost bike is back-3.jpg

The bike is back, with a letter from the thief.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Yesterday’s case of the mysterious disappearance of Brett Jarolimek’s ghost bike at N. Interstate and Greeley has come to an unexpected close.
Just a few hours after my story, I got an email and a phone call from local TV news crews who had sent reporters out to investigate. They were surprised to find the ghost bike back in its place. But the interesting thing is that, wedged into the rear wheel of the bike is a note from the thief that reads:

“I sincerely apologize for what I have done- I did not realize what it was until after the fact. I know that there is a war between pedestrians/ bicyclists and automobiles, and what I did constitutes high [t]reason, and for this I am truly sorry. I return this bike, along with one of my most cherished possessions [which I think is a blue bandanna visible in the photo below] in respect to your memorial, and as a guarantee that your efforts have impacted at least one life; mine – Bradford (The one who stole this bike)”

I have no idea who Bradford is, but this is one of the strangest things I’ve ever covered. Here are a few more photos I took this morning.

Brett's ghost bike is back-1.jpg

Brett's ghost bike is back-2.jpg

In a message posted to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) email list, Rick Johnson says if Bradford needs a bike so badly, perhaps the community should help him get one. He writes,

“I suggest we consider helping get him a bike of his own. Oftentimes when people are at a tipping point in their lives all it takes is the smallest action to change their course for the better. Perhaps this is one such case.

I feel I should also point out that as a group we, the cycling community, are quick to rise up in anger and indignation when one of our own is wronged. It might be good to display selflessness, charity and forgiveness sometimes as well.”

Others on the list are chiming in with support and donations for the idea. I’ll keep you posted…

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  • Austin Ramsland February 15, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Wow. That is truly incredible.

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  • janis February 15, 2008 at 10:59 am

    What was his most treasured possession that he added?

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  • true February 15, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Sweet. Now for the government to follow suit with my privacy rights.

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  • rgratzer February 15, 2008 at 11:07 am

    How does one not immediately realize that the bike is part of a memorial?

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  • jeff February 15, 2008 at 11:12 am

    people are strange.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 15, 2008 at 11:13 am

    \”What was his most treasured possession that he added?\”

    Janis, I think it\’s the blue bandanna visible in the photo on the bottom right.

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  • pdxrocket February 15, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I envision his mama grabbing him by the ear and making him write that one up with the returned ghost cycle. I\’ll give his parental until credit on that one.

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  • Roma February 15, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Help get the theif a bike? Why?

    He wasn\’t stealing this bike so he could ride it.

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  • Steve D February 15, 2008 at 11:42 am

    The black lock that you see in the picture is Corey\’s personal lock- and not a very secure one.

    I have a very strong Kryptonite mini- U-lock I could donate to secure the bike better. Does anybody have some very strong chain that they could drop off at the bike? I\’ll be by the memorial this evening.

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  • todd February 15, 2008 at 11:54 am

    While it\’s nice that he returned the bike, I think buying him a bike is a little out there.

    So, if I steal a car and then return it will someone buy me a car?

    How about if I rob a bank?

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  • Robin February 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    This is wonderful news. The only thing I\’m wondering about know is if the Bradford I know would steal a bike let alone Brett\’s bike.

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  • Jeff February 15, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    What is someone steals a car because they need it to take their terminally ill child to the hospital for cancer treatments? But then guilt overcomes them and they return it with a note and appology? Then I say help them get a car!

    OK, so thats a little out there. My point is you just don\’t know why people do the wrong thing… but how rare is it that a theft evolves into this? I love the idea of helping this person out- if they need a bike.

    Its a crazy world and I applaud this person for realizing his mistake and having the courage to make it right.

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  • Amy February 15, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I think buying Bradford a bike is a wonderful idea. It\’s hard knowing that you\’ve done something wrong, but it\’s even harder to confess and apologize. If someone is collecting donations and thinks that we can find Bradford to give him the bike (without getting him in trouble), I\’d like to know where I can donate toward the bike cost.

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  • Tomascosauce February 15, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Why doesn\’t he contact the Community Cycling Center and see if he can EARN a bike? Is this possible?

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  • toddistic February 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    thats a pretty amazing story

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  • Metal Cowboy February 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I agree with Tomascosauce regarding seeing Bradford earn a bike through the CCC. He would do this by donating time and effort to the nonprofit. Has anyone like Jonathan actually spoken with Bradford to find out what his motivation was for stealing this memorial? was it b/c he needed a bike so badly that he took this one before guilt and remorse kicked in or was it a prank gone bad etc. Before folks start taking up a collection and singing songs from Les Miserables, let\’s get the full story. That said, if Bradford is a walking talking human being and not an alias, then let\’s get him set up with the CCC, or I bet that any number of bike shops, The Farm, or bike organizations could use Bradford\’s labor and skills to help him earn a bike. The BTA is always looking for volunteers. We can get creative but I don\’t see how rewarding his actions with a bike for nothing in return offers up a life lesson and a teachiung opportunity/turning/tipping point for Bradford.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 15, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Does anyone know Bradford or how to get a hold of him? All these plans are dependent on us contacting him.

    Please email me if anyone finds him

    maus.jonathan (AT) gmail.com

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  • Lisa February 15, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I agree with Tomascosause. The experience of working for his bike is something that would benefit Bradford more than just giving him one.

    Stealing is a behavioral problem, the behavior won\’t go away with a band-aid.

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  • Alison February 15, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Yes, Bradford can sign up for our Create a Commuter class or one of our bike maintenance classes – they also now have scholarship and earn-a-bike options.

    If someone can get word to Bradford he can call the office at the Community Cycling Center and ask about our adult earn a bike program. We can get him started.

    Community Cycling Center

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  • Tomascosauce February 15, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Metal Cowboy, my sentiments exactly.

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  • Donna February 15, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Perhaps the way to communicate with Bradford would be to leave a message for him on Brett\’s Ghost Bike?

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  • Joe February 15, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    reach out is needed. what a turn around, this is ture awareness. cause and effect.

    I have a bike i could give him but its
    not all the way ready.

    wow im touched by this outcome.

    have a great weekend all

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  • Bill Trost February 15, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Uh — why are people leaving perfectly functional bicycles out as memorials? Yes, you want the ghost bike to look authentic, but there\’s no reason to make it an entirely intact and working bike. At the very least, strip the freehub, weld in the headset — anything! — to prevent people from riding off with it!

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  • Javen February 15, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    Indeed, very strange. At least Bradford did the right thing in the end. Far too often things are never made right.

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  • Klixi February 16, 2008 at 2:39 am

    I wonder if Bradford has the guts to go visit the ghost bike.. not sure if leaving him a message there would help. This whole story is just very strange. He may even be reading these comments. It\’s weird nobody saw him stealing the bike or bringing it back. He must\’ve driven himself or been driven there to drop the bike back off, otherwise I think at least one person would\’ve seen him walking a ghost bike down the street.

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  • bradford February 16, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    hello there.

    i did steal the bike to ride it. i heard mention of meth use or possible pranking, but i assure you that this was not the case. as a relative newcomer to portland i took what seemed like an innocent solution to my transportation predicament, a free bike. as previously mentioned, i didnt consider the effects of stealing the bike until they were made apparent.

    i cannot take the credit for its return. someone suggested a parental unit was my motivation, which also was not the case. fortunately, for my sake as well as the memorials, i am surrounded by a great group of friends here in portland, as they are surrounded by a great community which is all of you. my companions initiated any thought process of mine that led to the bike\’s return. i can now see what i did in full light, and do assure you that i feel like a complete chump to disrespect all of you so blatantly.

    while flattered, i must agree that i do not deserve any street-crime-door-prize. i do not deserve a bicycle anymore than any other pedestrian one might encounter. i am sorry for my actions, and in no way did i intend for them to be so publicised, though i have made my peace and am not ashamed.

    feel free to contact me bradfordpreATyahoo.com

    hi robin.


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  • Sarah Hobbs February 16, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I just came from Brett\’s ghost bike.I was so angry when I heard the bike came up missing. At the request of Ghost bikes I had been asked to keep a eye on it and I felt like I let Brett and everyone of you down. When I read the letter I was moved to tears. I believe he knew he really screwed up. I would like to see him earn his bike through community cycling center. I would like him to meet with people who knew Brett so he could learn about the person we honor with the Ghost Bike. Yes, somethings do not make sense like why he did not put two and two togather with the flowers and tributes that were left. Still, what is more inportant to me is that we are willing to forgive. Sarah

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  • Joe February 16, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    some profound statements. wow

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  • zilfondel February 16, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    All\’s well that ends well.

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  • n8m February 16, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Bradford, wow, way to own up- I\’m blown away and inspired by you. Thanks so much for stepping into the light when its all to easy to disappear into the shadows. Welcome to portland and I hope you find yourself a sweet (legit) ride! salaam.

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  • wsbob February 16, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Bradford #26….It\’s good of you to explain the circumstances surrounding your decision to take and return the memorial bike. The emotions of many people are inevitably wound up in the kinds of tragedies leading to the placement of a ghost bike. The fact that another person that otherwise wouldn\’t have thought so, now realizes the significance of their existence as a result of this unusual twist is a definitely positive stroke in this sad situation.

    While you seem to clearly recognize that taking the the bike wasn\’t an honorable thing to do, it\’s admirable that you\’re able to recognize this and feel regret about taking it. In view of that, I\’d say you ought to still consider some of the offers made to you to earn a bike in exchange for volunteer work, if you have the time. Sounds like you still need transportation. You might make a whole lot more friends than you have now. Whatever outfit you chose to help out may be delighted if you were to offer additional time beyond that needed to get a bike.

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  • BellaCroix February 20, 2008 at 10:26 am

    This guy doesn\’t derserve ANYTHING. He didn\’t appologize for stealing bikes – instead he called theft an \”innocent\” attempt to solve his transportation problems. He (still) didn\’t say he would never steal another bike. All he said was that, after realizing the bike was part of a tribute/memorial he felt bad about stealing THIS bike.

    He probably returned the bike (along with his snot rag), walked down the street, then stole another bike that wasn\’t painted all white.

    Let\’s not mistake one good act as a sign that he\’s changed his ways.

    You returned a bike… thank you. Now, promise you\’ll never do it again and make a donation to a charity in the name of Brett. Then I\’ll be touched, until then I\’m not.

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  • MD February 20, 2008 at 9:57 pm


    Judge for yourself.

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  • jeff February 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Taking pity on a 20 year old college grad who stole a bike? Yeah, count me out. This guy\’s a total chump.

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  • RJ February 21, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:12).”

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  • wsbob February 21, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Who says you have to take pity on this kid? An opportunity for making a constructive impression on him in other ways, still exists. There are a lot of people around that don\’t seem to have a very high sense of concern or sensitivity for the feelings of others. Giving up on them tends to make the situation worse.

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  • BodgerBill February 22, 2008 at 5:38 am

    For God\’s sake leave the guy alone – at least he did the decent thing and returned the bike. All the hows, whys and wherefores are irrelevant as the past cannot be changed.

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  • Nick M February 25, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Okay, so Bradford did something wrong, but I bet he did something that most of you would never have the guts to do. Yet you still \”throw stones\”.
    He owned up like a man, returned the bike and admitted to it. Then even followed up further with his comments to this story. Hell, in my book he is a lot more man than most of us probably would be in the same situation. I would like to think I too would do the right thing, but never judge someone until you have walked a mile in there shoes…
    Bradford, way to own up and take responsibility. I do not believe because you made one mistake, and tried to make it right, rather than throwing the bike away, you definately deserve a second chance.
    You really should look in to the CCC and BTA to see if they could help you out. You sound like a guy who would be willing to do the right thing to get a bike. But please, don\’t steal another bike.
    Many people\’s bikes are their only form of transportation and they worked for it and paid for it. This gives you no right to take from them! If you want a bike, please earn it.

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  • xrideveganx February 26, 2008 at 1:45 am

    Who\’s touching who here? And can I join in this touching?

    And who reads the onion?

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  • Boo Hoo February 26, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Let\’s coddle the criminals and have tea and cookies with them.

    The guy is a thief. So what if he had a twinge of guilt after finding out what the bike represents.

    His intent when stealing it in the first place was pretty clear.

    How many other things has this guy stolen that he had no remorse for simply because he was not made aware of the impact of his choice to steal?

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  • Alex April 11, 2008 at 10:36 am

    I\’m really confused as to why he took it in the first place… wish that was in the note! He doesn\’t sound like much of a hardened criminal. I agree that buying him a bike goes a bit far, but kudos to him for bringing it back!

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  • miss April 16, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    anyone know why it was gone today?

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