Ghost bike installed for Jason Ruhmshottel

Christina Cuanalo places flowers at a ghost bike installed for her brother Jason Ruhmshottel while BikeLoud volunteers Sarah Risser (purple jacket) and Steve Cheseborough (red), his mother Jill Ruhmshottel (white flowers), and other members of Jason’s family look on. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A few hours ago, a ghost bike was installed where the Smith & Bybee Wetlands path crosses North Portland Road just south of Marine Drive. Jason Ruhmshottel was struck and killed by a driver while riding across this intersection on September 19th, 2023.

Today at the site, Jason’s family — his mother Jill Ruhmshottel, sister Christina Cuanalo, brother-in-law Mario Cuanalo, and niece Michelle Ruhmshottel — met advocates from BikeLoud PDX and held a small ceremony to mark the memorial site with the bike, flowers, and photos.

BikeLoud volunteer Sarah Risser took on a project to make roadside memorials for crash victims (more on that later). This was her first time coordinating a ghost bike. She met the family, and along with other BikeLoud volunteers, they attached signs to the bike and then Mario placed it along the busy road.

Risser knows the pain the family is going through, since she lost a son of her own in a traffic crash. “As a mother who has lost a son. I think there’s a general hesitancy that a lot of people have about showing up for the family or publicly honoring the loss of a loved one. I think in most cases it’s a great comfort to the family to have the community show up and to have the community express love or acknowledgement because it means a lot.”

Christina Cuanalo said she hopes the white bicycle helps people remember her brother. “I want Jason not to be forgotten. I want people to know what happened here,” she said. “For this bike to be here, maybe it will make a statement and something like this won’t happen again.”

While standing out there it becomes very clear how dangerous this crossing is. There is no flashing beacon, no signal, nothing to slow drivers down. People speed by so quickly. Some slowed, but many barely did. It makes it easy to understand how a tragedy like this can happen. Hopefully people take time to not just see Jason’s ghost bike, but to think about what it means for someone to be killed while using our roads — and that each one of us has a responsibility to prevent it from happening in the future.


Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
4 months ago

I realize ghost bike memorials can be incredibly meaningful for family, friends, and community members who want to pay tribute to someone killed by vehicular violence.

But I also recognize that ghost bikes can reinforce a belief that cycling is dangerous, when the danger is not related to bicycles but to motor vehicles that are recklessly operated.

Perhaps we need to start a new movement, in which we put blood-red images of SUVs, trucks, vans, and cars up at every site where a driver injures or kills someone. These visual markers would underscore the immense harm done by the death monsters that American culture continues to condone.

Caleb
Caleb
4 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

I never knew ghost bikes until living in Portland 15ish years ago, but the idea always stuck with me as meaningful despite having not known anybody killed by an auto driver while cycling. So as an outsider, for me they’ve always signified the social ramifications of personal use automobiles, and never reinforced the claim that cycling is inherently more dangerous than traveling by any other means.

That’s why I also appreciate you bringing up the thought, Lois. Maybe we could just put those blood-red images you suggested behind the ghost bikes.

Sarah Risser
Sarah Risser
4 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

This is an important perspective that I’m going to spend some time with. I think it’s hard to say to what degree a ghost bike reinforces a belief that cycling is dangerous vs. that vehicle-dominate road traffic is dangerous. This is exactly how I feel about the widespread use of the phrase ‘vulnerable road user’

Sarah Risser
Sarah Risser
4 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

…and this ghost bike was specifically requested by the family