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How a ghost bike ended up in TriMet’s lost and found

Posted by on November 18th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

A ghost bike from southeast Portland that was stolen and then recovered by a TriMet bus operator sits in lost and found at the Center Garage.
(Photo: Bob Cummings)

On Saturday night, someone tried to load a stolen ghost bike onto a TriMet bus. Unfortunately for them, that bus happened to be operated by Ryan Ferro, a 38 year old Portland resident who also happens to be an avid cyclocross racer and someone who cares about what ghost bikes symbolize. Here’s what happened (as recounted to me by Ferro)…

“I just want you to know that that bike was put up for someone that was killed. It belongs somewhere else and it needs to go back.”
— Ryan Ferro, TriMet bus operator

Ferro was driving the number 75 bus northbound on SE Cesar Chavez Blvd when he pulled up to the Belmont Library stop at SE Taylor. As a passenger began to approach the bus, he put a bike on the front rack. The bike old and in disrepair and was painted all white. It looked like a ghost bike to Ferro (the ghost bikes that marks the 2003 crash of Orion Satushek and Angela Leazenby are just two blocks away at SE 41st and Belmont). (Update: A reader has confirmed that the ghost bike usually just one block away at Cesar Chavez/39th and Salmon is missing).

Ferro confronted the man about the bike. “Do you know that’s a ghost bike?” he asked. The man said no. According to Ferro, the man said his friend gave him the bike so he could fix it up. After that brief conversation, Ferro recalls, “He then bee-lined to the back of the bus, so I just closed the doors and kept driving.”

Ferro was sure the bike was stolen, so he called TriMet dispatch to ask for help. Because there was no way to prove the theft and the suspected thief wasn’t being unruly, dispatch advised Ferro that there wasn’t anything he could do. Ferro says at that point he just kept driving and watching his mirror. “I thought he’d get off at some point and reclaim the bike.” He drove all the way to St. Johns before the man got off and went to the front of the bus to pull the bike off the rack.

Ferro decided to open his doors and confront the man again, saying, “I just want you to know that that bike was put up for someone that was killed. It belongs somewhere else and it needs to go back.” The man said once again that his friend gave it to him, but Ferro interrupted: “It needs to go back,” he repeated. Then the suspected thief seemed to give in and went to lean the bike up against a nearby pole.

When Ferro protested that it didn’t belong on the pole, the man finally confessed that he had stolen the bike. “I think he felt bad, but was afraid to admit what he did.” Then, at Ferro’s urging, the man loaded the ghost bike back onto the bus rack so Ferro could take it back to the yard (Central Station).

Not knowing what else to do with the bike, Ferro logged it into the lost and found room where it now resides along with a bunch of other bikes and various items.

Asked why he took such a stand for the ghost bike, Ferro told me, “I live in that neighborhood and I see it all the time. People need those reminders.”

[Note: I have not checked the Satushek/Leazenby location, but I suspect this bike was taken from there. However, after comparing a photo of that location with the bike in this story, I’m not so sure. If anyone can positively identify the bike in this story, I’d really appreciate it.]

Update: Thanks to commenters below, it seems likely that this ghost bike came from Cesar Chavez and SE Salmon. One reader has confirmed that the ghost bike typically in that location is currently not there. Thanks to everyone for input. I’ll try to return the bike tomorrow.]

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

I know there is (or was) a ghost bike pretty much right at that stop, either 39th and Taylor or 39th and Salmon.

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

That’s what I was thinking too – it was there to commemorate a staff member of Movie Madness who was hit by a car while crossing the street, if I remember right!

armando
Guest
armando

but if it’s in the trimet lost and found, how can it be claimed? what will the accept for proof of ownership, and who is the owner?

ark
Guest
ark

Story gave me chills.
He handled the situation exceptionally well.

Portland Dog Runner
Guest

There has also been a ghost bike very close to or at the intersection of 36th & Main for quite a few years. There is still a memorial there, not sure if the bike went missing or not – I’ve since moved.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

I almost feel bad for the thief. He needed a bike, and took one that he thought was abandoned. So what’s more important– memorializing the dead, or providing transportation for the living?

thefuture
Guest
thefuture

Top shelf Mr. Ferro, I’m happy to see this story on BP. I especially like that it was resolved, and the bike recovered without police involvement. That guy will hopefully think twice about stealing a bike again. I hope this story makes it out more than just on this site.

Mork
Guest
Mork

I thought there used to be a ghost bike at the NE corner of 39th and Salmon. Last night I was getting a ride home in the rain and even commented that it was missing.

I looked on Google street view and that stop sign is decorated but no sign of the bike. Maybe I’m misremembering.

dutch
Guest
dutch

call me a jerk but I wish the police could actually do something. Its not frequently that you catch bike thieves red handed. I dont think we should be letting them off when we do.

Chris Shaffer
Guest
Chris Shaffer

My daughter and I regularly walk past the ghost bike on the NE corner of 39th and Salmon. The pole has been decorated for a long time, and the ghost bike has been there less than a year. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but I’m guessing that’s the most likely location.

peejay
Guest
peejay

It’s 39th and Salmon. I live a block from that intersection. I remember the day it happened. There was a ridiculously oversized truck involved, the kind that people drive to compensate for a deficiency.

Jolie
Guest

I live at the corner of 39th and Taylor, and just walked out to check– the ghost bike (which is normally at 39th and Salmon) is missing. The pole is decorated, but the bike is gone. I’m really glad that the driver went out of his way to stop the theft.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

it’s awesome that a bus driver put himself out there to ensure this memorial remained in place…

and yes, it does look like one of the bikes in that dark photo… I wonder if they’re both gone…

Steve
Guest
Steve

Ryan is my neighbor and he told me about this the next day. Sounds like Ryan handled this situation with patience and compassion, traits I’ve come know Ryan for. And Jonathan wrote this story and a commentor knew where this bike should go. Man this is great.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

wsbob
“… He needed a bike, and took one that he thought was abandoned. …” maxadders
I saw nothing in the story indicating that’s the reason the thief took the bike. Was he really that desperately in need of a bike to ride for transportation, or was he parting it out, or selling it for scrap? … People look for all kinds of ways to make a buck. Flipping, or selling parts to flippers might have been what the thief was doing.

If it’s a ghost bike, I think we can assume it’s not worth parting out. And what’s the going price for scrap steel? I don’t see many scrappers bothering to drag one lowly old bike all the way across town via Tri-Met. They usually gather them in pickup trucks along with other random stuff, then cash everything in en masse.

Who’s to say that an angry home / business owner didn’t cut the bike loose, and the guy in the story just found it unlocked, as disposed garbage? These bikes sit out for years at a time. While I support the project, its not known and understood to many people outside of the “bike community”. To us, this is kind of like stealing a grave marker. To the rest of the world, it’s just an another abandoned bike.

el timito
Guest
el timito

I can’t really call this a feel-good story, given the overall amount of sadness it contains. But it does make me love Portland even more.

Steve B
Guest

Are you touched by the work of Trimet Bus Driver Ryan Ferro? Join me in contacting Trimet with a commendation. Bus driving can be a thankless job, and this is a great opportunity to acknowledge the tireless work of drivers like Ryan!

Josh Collins
Guest
Josh Collins

Great story, Jonathan. Thanks for sharing it. Challenging someone who is suspected to have stolen property can be a risky thing to do, and not something that everyone would be comfortable doing. Bravo to Ferro for seeing to it that the bike was taken care of. Also, thanks to Steve B who suggests that he be commended. Operators truly value positive feedback. Unfortunately, it is often in short supply.

Josh Collins
TriMet Operations

jim
Guest
jim

Perhaps there should be a time limit for how long a ghost bike can stay at a location. It could be that the neighbors got tired of looking at it and removed it, perhaps gave it to this guy who probably did need a bike.
Good job of handeling this situation by the driver though. It is an important thing to remember the fallen. Perhaps we can make a wall somewhere as a more permanent memorial with plaques or tiles or something?

Charley
Guest
Charley

Ferro is one quiet hero.

k-dub
Guest
k-dub

While I agree with the idea of the ghost bike, I live near the Noah Cardamon ghost bike and it seems to get vandalized on a regular basis (the handlebars have been stolen many, many times,) and that just makes me sad. It’s like seeing a cemetery vandalized.

Jessica Bucciarelli
Guest
Jessica Bucciarelli

Part of what I love about this story is the patience that Ryan exercised, and the passenger’s gradual (and belated) movement toward doing the right thing.
Thanks to Ryan for his actions and to Jonathan for telling the story.
Jessica Bucciarelli
(TriMet employee; not speaking on behalf of my employer)

mello yello
Guest
mello yello

What these things aren’t welded to make them un-ridable? Well shoot, I’ve got a welder right here.

Diane
Guest
Diane

Great job Ryan!

Diane, a colleague and fellow cyclist.

Anton
Guest
Anton

J.Maus, can you do a story about Ghost Bikes? Like, who puts them up? Is there a group dedicated to them? What’s the protocol for how they are attached to sign posts/poles? Is there a blog that tracks them by location? (There is a child’s Ghost Bike in the NE I pass on the bus. I would like to know what happened there.) Thx.

Steve B
Guest

The most definitive source of info for ghost bikes is http://www.ghostbikes.org/ You might also be interested in a documentary coming together about the worldwide impact & future of street memorials: http://ghostbikesfilm.com/

In general, ghost bikes are ad-hoc memorials. It’s up to friends, family or complete strangers to put them up for those who have died while riding their bicycle.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

wsbob and jim, I think it’s a good idea to come up with a more permanent solution… I think a white bike-shaped rack with a plaque on it at the location would go a long way in being a useful reminder… paid for by the responsible party if possible…

Ed
Guest

what a nice story. thanks for posting.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

Stealing a ghost bike is like stealing flowers from a grave… it’s just wrong at such a basic level.

Megan Wilbur, an independent film maker, is still working on her ghost bike documentary/project, updates should be available: http://www.ghostbikesfilm.com.

Previous BikePortland article covered Wilbur’s project, http://bikeportland.org/2010/06/14/filmmaker-visits-portland-and-vancouver-to-document-ghost-bikes-34940