(Photo: Marcus Griffith)
New York City independent film maker and bike enthusiast Meaghan Wilbur is in Portland and Vancouver this week filming interviews for her ghost bike documentary, a project she says is about “exploring the intersection of street art, activism, and mourning on the streets of cities around the world.”
In an interview Friday night, the gregarious 27 year-old talked about her project and her motivations. “I hope to expand people’s horizons; I want everyone to understand what a ghost bike stands for.” However, in her quest, Wilbur is being mindful of the inherent sensitivity surrounding the subject. “When I started [the ghost bike project], I didn’t want to be in people’s face while they were grieving… Right now, I am focusing on connecting with people and letting them share their stories.”
“In some cities, people think ghost bikes are co-opting death for activist reasons and in other cities, friends and families [of the deceased cyclist] are the ones putting in the ghost bike… It’s a real mix…”
— Meaghan Wilbur
Another aspect of the documentary is creating a city-to-city comparison of the installation process and community reaction to ghost bikes. “There is a different approach in each city,” Wilbur stated. According to Wilbur, variance in community characteristics between cities creates regional specific aspects to the ghost bike phenomenon. “Every community has their own battles in their quest to become livable cities,” she explained, “those community specific battles can change the message people are trying to say [through ghost bikes].”
There also appears to be no universal response to ghost bikes as memorials. “In some cities, people think ghost bikes are co-opting death for activist reasons and in other cities, friends and families [of the deceased cyclist] are the ones putting in the ghost bike,” Wilbur explained. “It’s a real mix about how people respond to a ghost bike being put in,” she stated.
Wilbur’s project givers her unique perspectives on the nature of ghost bikes. So far Wilbur has documented ghost bikes in New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Miami, Sao Paulo (Brazil), Vancouver and Portland. “It’s a documentary, so things have to be filmed where and how they unfold,” Wilbur stated.
At a local level, Bike Me! Vancouver facilitator Leah Jackson supports the installation of ghost bikes. “Ghost bikes are important because they increase awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists” Jackson stated. Jackson, who was interviewed by Wilbur, is not alone in her support for local ghost bikes.
North Portland resident Rachal Harden also supports ghost bikes as awareness tools. “[Ghost bikes] really drive home that cyclist are being killed… they’re not about scaring cyclists away from the road or guilt-tripping drivers, [ghost bikes] are there to remind people how vulnerable cyclists are on the road,” Harden stated.
Wilbur is currently self-funding her project. To help with the cost, she has a KickStarter account set up and she hopes to raise $2,500 by July 4th (which happens to be her birthday).
Wilbur expects to be done filming by August and ready for next year’s independent film festivals. On Wednesday, Wilbur will fly to London and later Albuquerque, New Mexico to continue her project. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
I think this is great. I pass many ghostbikes on my daily route and they always remind me to be cautious (and hopefully they remind drivers too!)
Has Meaghan visited Tracey Sparling’s ghostbike in its permanent resting place at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Parish in SW Portland? It’s an important part of our city’s story that would bring much to the film…
Talking about ghost bikes during Pedalplooza? Not sure if thats a good thing or a jinx. Be safe out there folks. We all are one driver’s mistake from being a ghost bike ourselves.
This from my old ‘hood of new installations/memorials:
hey BikePourtland, there’s an “h” at the end of “Pittsburg” 😉