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One Year Later: Plans for a permanent memorial to Brett are confirmed

Posted by on October 24th, 2008 at 10:47 am

This is a draft design concept created by Matt Cardinal for a permanent memorial to honor Brett Jarolimek at N. Interstate and Greeley Ave. The image is taken from a photograph by Bob Libby of Creative Dog Photography.

At a meeting this morning in downtown Portland, plans for a permanent memorial to be erected at the site of Brett Jarolimek’s death one year ago, were officially put into motion.

The meeting took place in the office of ODOT’s Region 1 manager Jason Tell. In addition to Mr. Tell, around the table were ODOT’s Portland-area maintenance manager Ted Miller, the BTA’s Public Affairs chief Karl Rohde, Brett’s close friend Matt Cardinal, and two ODOT community affairs reps.

ODOT’s Tell started the meeting off by recounting how the Jarolimek tragedy effected him, his staff, and the entire community:

“I was really struck at how many people were impacted by it. As I met with people at various events, it just kept coming up. It’s stayed with me ever since.”

Tell said those feelings led him to work with his staff to figure out “an appropriate tribute” to not just honor Brett, but to use his story as a way to foster ongoing awareness for sharing the road. “When I approached staff about this idea,” he shared, “I didn’t even have to convince them this was worth spending time on it.”

It’s taken a year to work up a plan because, according to Tell, “every decision we make here at ODOT is under a lot of scrutinty.”

On the conference table in front of Tell and the others was a design concept (see above) created by artist, framebuilder and friend of Brett’s, Matt Cardinal. Also on the table was an official ODOT permit application to begin work on the memorial.

According to Cardinal, the memorial will be a mosaic mural created with ceramic tile and will be placed under the bridge on the same wall where a spray-painted stencil of Brett appeared back in November (and was reluctantly removed by ODOT shortly thereafter).

Cardinal said the mosaic — which he expects to be completed by February — will be built off-site*, on a separate structure. That way, if ODOT ever has to do anything to the wall, the mural will not be damaged.

The design, Cardinal says, will be kept simple and will likely look very similar to the graphic above (Brett on his bike with “Share the Road” alongside). The image of Brett racing his cyclocross bike (taken by Bob Libby) has become something of an icon and is also being used as part of an official logo sticker of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA), of which Brett was a member.

Tell, and maintenance manager Ted Miller, have decided that the project will be done under the rubric of their Adopt-a-Landscape program. In addition to the mural, ODOT will install paving stones to beautify the median island directly in front of the wall (it’s currently just dirt).

That Adopt-a-Landscape program requires an official partner to sign the permit application and commit to maintaining the area. The BTA will be that official partner and Karl Rohde signed the permit application at the meeting this morning.

Funding for the project is still being lined up. Talks are underway for funding through the Regional Arts and Culture Council and if that doesn’t come through, Cardinal says he’ll approach the Brett Jarolimek Memorial Fund for a grant.

“When we started Brett’s memorial fund,” said Cardinal, “we wanted to fund projects that included a message about safety, combined with art. This seems perfect for that.”

The effort put forth by Jason Tell and ODOT, and their willingness to extend outside their usual responsibilities and focus, is not only an illustration of the shift taking place at that agency, but it’s a tangible manifestation of how Brett’s death (and Tracey Sparling’s just 11 days prior) will not be forgotten by our community.

Thanks are due to ODOT (an especially Mr. Tell) for putting this partnership together and for making this project a reality.

*NOTE: Matt Cardinal is looking for a space where he and the other artists can work to create this mural. If you know of anyone with an appropriate studio or workspace, please get in touch and I’ll forward you to Matt. They’d need the space for a period of one month.

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  • Zaphod October 24, 2008 at 10:54 am

    This is a good thing & I am happy that there will be a permanent memorial.

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  • 180mm_dan October 24, 2008 at 11:06 am

    This is all good.

    However, there is a certain irony that the memorial will enshrine the view Jarolimek could not see! It’s the everyday traffic going *down*, not up, the hill that would benefit from an artistic reminder of his tragedy.

    The billboard at the top of the hill would be a perfect.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 24, 2008 at 11:10 am

    “The billboard at the top of the hill would be a perfect.”


    I think the significance of the location — just a few feet from where the collision occurred — is more important than the visibility of the mural.

    To me, this is intended as more of a memorial and less of a PSA.

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  • wsbob October 24, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I would have preferred that the full length image of Jarolimek be used in the design. It really conveyed the power, grace and speed that’s possible on bikes.

    Also, maybe something a little more direct in terms of the text message. People can have every intention to ‘share the road’ and the danger still remains. The importance of being ever watchful might be the most important lesson related to this incident.

    Overall, a very commendable effort on everyone’s part.

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  • Robert Sanders October 24, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Really awesome. Thanks to you too, Jonathan. Your site really is the nexus of this very diverse cycling community. Thank you for articulating the issues that matter to us and being present for us in the greater community.

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  • Krampus October 24, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Jon (#3): I get what you’re saying, but to me the sign reads less like a memorial than a PSA. “Share the road” is definitely not something I’d expect to see on a memorial and were I unaware of Brett and this tragedy, and I saw the mural above, I wouldn’t think for a second it was any sort of memorial, I’d just think it was another form of some type of we-are-all-traffic campaign. It’s great they’ve finally gotten to the point where they can go ahead with an official memorial (about time), but I kind of hope they end up going with a different mural than the one above. I don’t think it holds the gravity it should.

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  • Stripes October 24, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Wonderful and tasteful memorial.

    Thankyou to ODOT for their cooperation on this project.

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  • amanda October 24, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Krampus has a good point. I think it might be appropriate to use his name and the date he died. Maybe even state that he “died while biking here” and then include the message about sharing the road.

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  • Joe October 24, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    I love the please above it. wow 1 year!

    Thank you for doing this ODOT, this helps
    bring awareness to the matter, we all share the road.

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  • 180mm_dan October 24, 2008 at 2:20 pm


    I suggest the billboard more as an alternative art/design solution that fits the accident it memorializes. Upon further thought, I don’t think I would really want to look at a billboard at the top every time I ride (or rather bomb)the hill on my commute! The memorial’s visibility is evidently an important criteria since it is a mural instead of, for example, a small intimate plaque.

    Krampus has good points.

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  • Sarah October 24, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Before I posted about this I spoke to people who also knew Brett. We all agreed that we want to move past how he died but, remember how he lived. Bike Safety was important to him and we believe he would approve of ths.

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  • SYK October 24, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    I am so pleased that ODOT has come up with what sounds like a beautiful and creative way to remember Brett, doing something he loved in life,and provide a safety reminder to all who see it.
    Thank you ODOT, BTA and all involved in this endeavor.

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  • Tonya October 24, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you to all involved!

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  • Matthew Denton October 24, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Assuming the ghost bike stays at the site, I think that most people would get the message, but a “Brett Jarolimek 1980(?)-2007” below the other text seems like it would be appropriate…

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  • Sarah October 25, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    the ghost bike has gone missing again. At this point I would like to see something that will be permananet.

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  • JP October 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Too bad the girl who died outside the Crystal Ballroom can’t make just as much impact. Is it because she wasn’t as well known as a “biker” or she wasn’t “hard core?” No disrespect to Brett, I just think people are people, and we shouldn’t play favorites with who’s more valuable or important in the bicycle community.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 27, 2008 at 11:03 am

    “people are people, and we shouldn’t play favorites with who’s more valuable or important in the bicycle community.”


    No one is playing favorites here. The simple fact is that Brett had some artistic friends who have come forward and have worked the system to make this happen.

    If a similar thing was done by friends/family of Tracey, I’m sure a similar result/project would be possible.

    Each tragedy has its own impacts and outcomes that is a direct result of the people involved.

    Tracey’s Aunt Susie Kubota (and her husband Jim) have a major impact in other ways — by educating themselves on traffic safety issues and becoming involved in activism and speaking out on Tracey’s behalf.

    Both Tracey and Brett have had major impacts on the community… they’ve just done it — and continue to do it — in different ways.

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  • Gretta J October 31, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    It is beautiful and straight-forward, just like Brett. I can’t imagine how he would feel to know so much thoughtfulness, love and effort continues to be poured into his memory.

    All we can do is take this tragedy and fashion it a tool to make the world better. Brett’s dear friends are using their amazing skills at both art and community organizing to do just that. We all would be so lucky to have friends like that!

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  • Karen November 6, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    As Brett’s Mom, I think Brett is so proud of all his dear friends. I think the concept is special and fitting… I hope it helps to make the roads a safer place for everyone.

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  • Jennifer December 3, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I am so glad to hear this. Is there a place to send donations?

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