Friday, 13 February 2009

White 'ghost bikes' pay tribute to dead riders in danger spots across Britain

They are unfortunately becoming a familiar sight alongside many British roads.

More than 100 old bicycles painted white and chained to lampposts and railings have sprung up at ‘danger-spots’ over the past year. Dubbed ‘ghost-bikes’, they have been put there to warn motorists approaching dangerous bends to look out for cyclists and, in many cases, have been left at locations where riders were killed.

Memorial: The scene of James Danson-Hatcher's death in Brighton

The UK campaign was started by road safety campaigner Steve Allen after his friend was killed in a North London street. In July 2003, cyclist James Foster was struck by a drunk driver doing 55mph on a 30mph road. Sabrina Harman, 29, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and banned from driving for three years.

Angry at what he believed to be a lenient sentence, Mr Allen set off on a quest to highlight the dangers for cyclists on Britain’s roads. He travelled to America where he teamed up with Ghost Bikes, the campaigning group that started the white-bike idea in 2000. It now operates in 43 countries worldwide. When he returned home, Mr Allen established a UK branch of Ghost Bikes. He picked up the bikes for a pittance from landfill dumps and scrap metal merchants and painted them white in his back garden.

The website developer has since placed more than 100 of them on the roadside in London, Oxfordshire, Manchester and Brighton, although local councils have removed many of them. He said: ‘Something had to be done. James was a great mate, a young man in the prime of his life.

‘Cycle deaths on the road in the UK go largely unreported and I wanted to put something tangible out there to document the tragedies and warn drivers to look out for cyclists.’ One of the white bikes is on a junction in Hackney, North London. It was erected in April after the death of cyclist Anthony Smith, 37, who was crushed by a lorry.

Another was placed on a Brighton street where James Danson-Hatcher, 23, was killed by a car driving at 60mph in April last year. James’s grieving sister Alison Swann said: ‘I am glad a ghost bike has been put at the spot where he was killed. Anything that helps raise awareness of road safety is a good thing.’

In April this year, a white bike was left on a street in Manchester after 55-year-old Stephen Wills was killed by a hit-and-run driver. He suffered fatal head injuries after being knocked off his bike but no one has been prosecuted.

Some ghost bikes are temporary; the Oxford and York bikes have gone and one in Greenwich Park, south east London, was 'reluctantly removed after a month' following discussions with the Royal Parks. Some local authorities are more tolerant - the Brighton bike has been in place for nearly a year, while Transport for London, which controls the major routes in the capital, says: 'We wouldn't expect to be asked permission for a ghost bike and we wouldn't seek to remove it.'

Last year 3,000 people, including 500 children, were killed on UK roads. More than 130 were cyclists.

hattip Sebastian Achaibou on Facebook.

See also:
ghostbikes, theherald, guardian, mail

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