Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

ODOT has removed Brett Jarolimek’s ghost bike: Here’s why

Posted by on December 15th, 2011 at 10:56 am

A ghost bike for Brett Jarolimek (L) has been removed by ODOT.


Earlier this month, crews with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) removed the white ghost bike with the cardboard sign attached to it that read, “Brett Jarolimek 1976 – 2007”.

The bike was placed up in the bushes and against a road sign near the intersection of N. Interstate and Greeley — the same intersection that claimed Jarolimek’s life on October 22, 2007.

ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton told me this morning that the bike was removed as per the agency’s policy. “State highways are not a bulletin board,” he said, “We have to make sure anything that goes under the side of one of our roads is safe and doesn’t cause distraction for road users.” (Interstate isn’t an ODOT-managed road, but the intersection is under an ODOT highway on-ramp.)

Hamilton added that ODOT is open to discussing more permanent memorials, but they’ve got to go through a more formal vetting process. On that note, it’s important to recall the history of this location.

Just a few months after Jarolimek’s death, a beautiful stencil painting of him appeared on a concrete wall just a few feet away from the collision. ODOT painted over the stencil, but not before struggling with the decision.

Then a few months later a previous ghost bike for Brett was stolen, only to be returned a few days later by a remorseful thief.

Plans for a permanent memorial surfaced soon after that episode and, while the plans progressed, the actual project never got off the ground.

For their part, I’ve confirmed with ODOT’s Region 1 manager Jason Tell that they’re still interested and willing to allow a permanent memorial. I’ll keep you posted on any developments.

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

34
Leave a Reply

avatar
20 Comment threads
14 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
25 Comment authors
arejimBob_MSkidGlowBoy Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Scott
Guest
Scott

I was wondering what happened here. I always found the ghost bike and the beautiful stenciled painting a sobering reminder of caution when traveling our roads.

I have been ashamed to see the lack of maintenance and weeds that have grown up in the area nicely paved with bricks below the original mural. Perhaps we should take the time to pull the weeds as well.

ofoab
Guest
ofoab

adopt a ghost bike,lest we forget; The Ride of Silence needs many more riders to make up for the ones we are losing !

kittens
Guest
kittens

oh yes this is totally distracting, while all the massive 14×48′ illuminated billboards across the state are not. Their sole-purpose is to distract drivers! I’d also suggest it is a first amendment issue. By continuing to allow billboards aimed at highways and freeways as long as they are on private lands they have invalidated their rationale.

chad
Guest

“State highways are not a bulletin board,…” Seriously? Have you driven down McLoughlin lately? There are at least two seriously distracting electronic billboards that blink bright LED light at drivers as they speed through West Moreland and Sellwood. If a ghost bike needs to be removed as to not distract drivers, surely flashing billboards the size of a small house should also be removed. Oh, wait, that might hurt business for Clear Channel or AT&T. Never mind.

David M
Guest

Suddenly it is a problem after four years?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

RE: the complaints about the “distractions” double standard with electronic billboards.

I agree that those billboards are a step toward more distraction… but comparing them to random, grassroots memorials isn’t really a good comparison.

There is a whole system of regulation and precedence around billboards that doesn’t exist with roadside memorials.

I’d rather argue that we need a new law that allows roadside memorials and/or makes it more of a program that is accessible to the community.

For me, the glaring double standard in all this is how the Oregon legislature this year passed a roadside memorial bill for fallen law enforcement officers… But they’ve twice voted down a similar bill that would have honored people killed while bicycling.

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

I would like restate my idea for a petition to have the stencil art of Brett that was done under the overpass allowed to be put back in place. It was tasteful, showed Brett enjoying what he loved to do, and would also serve as a model to our city that street art can be embraced. Does ODOT control the bridge, or is it federal property? anyone know?

Joe
Guest
Joe

We all need the reminder to drive safe and its more then getting from point A – B. when we loose a fallin rider, or rider down message it might wake some up to slow down and pay attention? * my heart remains on the street I ride on *

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I like the idea of allowing roadside memorials. It’s a good reminder that driving is the deadliest activity the majority of our population. Do they get in the way of weed removal activities or something? Is there a legitimate reason for ODOT to object?

stace
Guest
stace

In Montana (at least when I used to live there), road side memorials were common. I had never seen any thing like them before moving there. They were certainly a sobering reminder to be alert and drive safe. You could drive along roads for hours and not pass another car, but pass several memorials, reminding you that people have died along this very same path due to an automobile crash. Very sobering, and a nice way to honor a person who has died by hoping that it might help prevent another crash. Now living in Portland, ghost bike and other roadside memorials serve that same purpose, a reminder that our lives on this planet are vulnerable and we should be conscious to protect our lives and the lives of others. If the ghost bike must be removed, I would like to see some sort of memorial that creates the same awareness.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

Across the State I spot ad hoc memorials on all types of roads, local, State and Federal. Small crosses, often adorned with flowers, flags,etc. marking fatalities( I presume) of motor vehicle wrecks. Many have been in place for year, some attended, some not.
Not a ‘double standard’ in place here, but a triple standard.
Glaring oversized signs are protected as ‘free speech’.
Motorists memorials are ok.
Cyclist memorials aren’t.
We are all equal, but some are more equal than others.

Caroline
Guest

ODOT you are a grinch! And to whomever kept stealing the faux flowers I kept putting on Brett’s bike, I hope they really impressed your date.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

Maybe proposing a design for a universal memorial in advance of approaching the legislature is a good idea. Something conservative, and not distracting, but instantly recognizable to the educated passerby.

ME Fitz
Guest
ME Fitz

Jonathan – Do you know who’s land it is? While ODOT may manage within their right of way, they may not have total authority of the area.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Someone in Portland needs to make Ghost Bikes out of something worthless to thieves like plastic, lint or pennies. Fill the fake frame with concrete.

Instead of attaching them to government (DOT) owned infrastructure show up with a post hole digger, instant concrete and some tie down cable.

Set a 6″ diameter 24″ deep footing in a hole with the cheap cable holding down materially worthless plastic Ghost Bike memorial.

Andycigarettes
Guest
Andycigarettes

Well. If it’s not “official”, then let’s put it back up!

Grandpa
Guest
Grandpa

I support the removal of the memorials. I admit that this is a sensitive subject as Brett was a friend to bloggers here. Next to rural roads the cheap plastic flowers, teddy bears and 2×4 crosses become just more litter. It is admitted that ghost bikes are “trashy” and could easily be considered an eyesore. Everyone dies, and lots die on roads, but a home spun memorial at every intersection and off-camber turn will just be more visual clutter.

I see no evidence that the memorials alter the behavior of drivers. Most drivers remain ignorant of the the weight of their responsibility or the lethal nature of their inattention while behind the wheel. If you want to alter driver’s behavior petition legislators to require serious training and testing before getting licenses, get laws changed that put teeth into driver safety laws and insist that serious punishment be imposed on traffic law violators. This will do more than spray painting a derelict bike and chaining it to a sign.

If one wants to honor the dead buy a tombstone, plant a tree, write a poem or throw a wake. Remember them and honor that memory, but don’t insist that all road users join you at the funeral.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

What I want to see is South Dakota style memorials everywhere there’s been a death.

In S.D., they put up a small sign that says “Think!” and “Why Die?” in EVERY location where there is a fatality. If there have been multiple deaths at a location, then there are multiple signs. The signs are small enough, and mounted lower than normal signs, that they don’t compete with normal regulatory and advisory signs.

And when you come up to an intersection with a dozen THINK! signs at it, you’d better believe it makes you think.

Skid
Guest
Skid

I’ve got an idea. Let Tiago DeJerk re-create his mural there.

And if you want a ghost bike with a little care and craftsmanship into it I am willing to donate my time and skill.

Skid
Guest
Skid

They can step into the 21st century by accepting that alternative art and sculpture are valid forms of expression, even though they don’t generate revenue. They are no more of a distraction than anything else and certainly not vandalism and litter.

And artists can step into the 21st century and go through all the bureaucratic red tape.

I think this is a workable compromise for a permanent Brett Jarolimek Memorial.