Archive for Sunday, October 25, 2009

Friends seek ghost bike memorial for hit-and-run victim

Ghost bikes, such as this one in Pittsburgh, Pa., are placed in areas where a cyclist has been killed or injured after being struck by a motor vehicle. Efforts are under way to place a ghost bike at Ninth and Tennessee streets, near where Rachel Leek died after being hit Oct. 16.

Ghost bikes, such as this one in Pittsburgh, Pa., are placed in areas where a cyclist has been killed or injured after being struck by a motor vehicle. Efforts are under way to place a ghost bike at Ninth and Tennessee streets, near where Rachel Leek died after being hit Oct. 16.

October 25, 2009


Friends of hit-and-run victim pushing for memorial

Friends of hit-and-run victim Rachel Leek are trying to get approval for a "ghost bike" memorial in her honor. They hope the memorial would remind drivers to be more careful and watchful of bikers in the street. Enlarge video

A friend and fellow cyclist wants to honor the memory of Rachel Leek with a simple memorial: a small plaque hanging from the handlebars of a riderless bike, painted white.

A ghost bike.

The memorial plan — expected to be reviewed by the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee — would be the first in Kansas and would join dozens in more than 100 communities in the U.S. and abroad, where the stark displays are chained to street signs and serve to recall the memory of fallen riders while spurring others to recognize the rights of all cyclists to travel safely.

“It’s not just for Rachel,” said Dylan Medlock, a friend who is proposing the two-wheeled memorial. “It’s for all the cyclists in town — and for everybody to be more aware.”

A reminder

Leek died Oct. 16. After a night of dancing at a downtown club, the 20-year-old was riding her bike in the 1000 block of Tennessee Street when she was hit by a car, just two houses from a friend's home and her intended destination.

As Lawrence police continue to investigate the hit-and-run case — they have identified the driver of the car, but have made no arrests — Medlock is working to see that Leek’s memory more than endures.

He said he wanted to see his friend’s influence pervade the thinking of everyone who climbs aboard a bike, gets behind the wheel or otherwise makes decisions that can affect the comfort and safety of the traveling public.

That’s why Medlock, a Kansas University sophomore who grew up in Lawrence, wants to create a ghost bike. By establishing a visible reminder of the dangers — and, in Leek’s case, the ultimate sacrifice — resulting from bicycles and motor vehicles sharing the same space, he figures a positive change could result.

Locking a white-painted bike to a traffic signal pole at the southwest corner of Ninth and Tennessee streets, he figures, could even do more to help than other, more expensive permanent fixtures.

“We’re looking for something a little intangible, like a culture change,” Medlock said. “You can still have all the bike lanes you want, but people are still going to get hit by cars. …

“The culture needs to change first.”

International effort

The first ghost bike memorial appeared six years ago in St. Louis, after a motorist struck and killed a cyclist who had been riding in a bike lane. The memorial included a simple sign, with the words “Cyclist Struck Here.”

Soon more than a dozen such ghost bikes were arrayed elsewhere in the city, and similar efforts followed in other communities, including Pittsburgh, New York, Seattle, Chicago, London and dozens more.

Eric Struckhoff, chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee, came upon one of the memorials himself a few weeks ago while visiting Portland, Ore., and found himself immediately struck by the ghost bike and its context.

“It is to the point,” he said. “People, when they see this thing, they know what it is. They know what happened. They may even know who it is.

“And when you install one of these things, there’s some awareness raised — that bicyclists are on the roads, at all times of the day and on all kinds of roads — and, unfortunately, that this is something that happens as a result.”

He said he had already discussed the project with members of the committee and was looking forward to addressing formal plans as they materialize.

“This is a worthwhile effort,” Struckhoff said.

‘Appropriate and sensitive’

The final decision about any such memorial will rest with Lawrence City Commission, whose members already have indicated a “desire to do something appropriate and sensitive,” City Manager David Corliss said. Staffers need to look into a variety of issues, such as those involving siting concerns, maintenance costs and other details, before signing off on a plan.

Medlock, for his part, is moving forward. He’s checking into possibilities for acquiring an old steel bike, and contacting other organizers about how to put an appropriate memorial together.

He said he hoped the effort could help create something positive out of what has been a tragic situation for all involved.

“It’s a good place to start,” Medlock said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly said where Leek was riding too when she was hit.


Linda and Bill Houghton 8 years, 8 months ago

Bike lanes are a mixed blessing at best. You are particularly vulnerable at intersections from turning traffic and if the bicycle lane is between parking spots and the motor vehicle lane you may have somebody opening a door right in front of you.

If there is no bicycle lane and the bicyclist and the cars have to share the lane the bicyclist is more likely to be seen and is probably at least as safe as a rider in a bicycle lane.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

Widening the east sidewalk of both Tenn and Kentucky to carry pedestrians and cyclists would create a bit more safety and would benefit many in this area. From 9th - 19th streets.

"The inner urban transportation system"with lights.

Also marked cross walks on both streets at 10th through 19th might be helpful. Call this the "School Zone District".

Yes quite an appropriate memorial.

Yabut 8 years, 8 months ago

So does this mean the ordinance will change (it's currently illegal to lock a bike to a street sign) or will this be a special exception?

secrettoalonglife 8 years, 8 months ago

While living in Lawrence, I was hit 5 or 6 times by cars while riding my bike. I think ANYTHING that could make drivers more aware of bicyclists would be a good thing.

cowboy 8 years, 8 months ago

I think a pr campaign is desperately needed . Car drivers be aware , the bikes can come from anywhere , the street , the sidewalk , shoot thru the crosswalks , bikers we can't always see you coming , protect yourselves, make sure you are seen , wear bright clothes , get some bright lights on your bike at night.

And for the drunks , most of these folks are out of jail in an hour or two , big consequences huh , i say hold them till arraignment with the judge , 24-32 hours in jail might have a bit more of an impact on them. Have them miss a day of work and have to explain why , put their names in the paper , increase the bonds .

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

Hitting someone from behind = not paying attention.

Cowboy makes some substantial points in the first paragraph. Pedestrians in brighter colors are also easier to see. Darker colors blend with outdoor surroundings.

Vehicles such as cars, trucks etc etc are loaded with blind spots. NO drivers cannot see as much as cyclists certainly not as quickly. Cyclists view from a bicycle is wide open.

Night Rider Ultrafazer front light is substantial in spite of its' size. It lights up a stop sign from at least a block and a half away. The flash mode is whopping eye catching and provides enough light to spot pot holes at the same time. Does not bring down batteries quickly. Small,light weight and what a light.

Planet Bike Super Flash for the rear can probably be seen from Mars. No other rear light can compare.

A cyclist at Cycle Works pointed these two items out as the best bang for the bucks. After several lighting systems including battery pack set ups the Ultra Fazer is simply awesome as is the super flash. Both small and light weight.

Both Sunflower and Cycle Works are Night Rider locations.

Personally my preference is a flasher on the front to accompany the front light. Like it or not some drivers need a lot to get their attention.

Kelly Cline 8 years, 8 months ago

Great idea!! And maybe a few others around town where folks have been hit. Seems like an easy reminder to slow down when bikes are around.

LadyJ 8 years, 8 months ago

Seamus--I was temporarily blinded by a bicyclist try to cross an intersection who was wearing a LED light on his head. I don't think this is a very good idea. Do you really want to blind the drivers around you?

50YearResident 8 years, 8 months ago

Really? Do we want to clutter up our streets and sidewalks with rusty old junk bikes? Next thing will be to put and old crashed cars at every spot where a driver was killed. Memorials need not to be visual reminders.

laika 8 years, 8 months ago


A ghost bike is covered in (at least) a layer of primer and 2 layers of white spray paint. As this is being painted on to steel, I bet they will use rust resistant spray paint, making rusting unlikely.

pity2bu 8 years, 8 months ago

I think until the bicyclists start obeying the rules of the road, nothing should be done. Running stop signs, stop lights, traveling down city streets after dark with no lights to make them visible to the drivers, as well as riding two to four abreast on the county roads with two lanes and don't move over to the right to allow others to pass need to be cited.

This is a moot issue..... Cite them all !!!!!!!!!

mae 8 years, 8 months ago


I agree. I know that "2 coats of primer and paint" will in no way stand up to the elements. It's not on steel, it's on a highly resistant paint job, rubber tires, seat, handlebars, springs and cables. It'll be a bike version of that pink minivan on iowa.

Why not have some art students make something nicer and possibly permanent?

And yes, chaining it to a sign will let every new bicyclist think that's legal.

parrothead8 8 years, 8 months ago

This is a great idea. Visual reminders (crosses, flowers, etc.) are often placed at places on roads where motorists have died, and this would be a noticeable tribute.

I hope this doesn't come across as making light of a tragedy, but the death of Ms. Leek is the kind of unfortunate catalyst necessary to form momentum for the kind of "culture change" Mr. Medlock talks about in the article.

The issue is not whether the roads are a dangerous place for bikes, or cars, or whatever else kind of vehicle is operated on them...the issue is that roads are a dangerous place for PEOPLE, and it's going to take PEOPLE to make the roads safer.

Yes, many cyclists need to be more careful, but so do many motorists. It's not an either-or situation, it's an "all of us" situation.

wordgenie8 8 years, 8 months ago

What a creative idea! The ghost bike memorial will stand as a poignant reminder of Rachel Leek. I always loved the bicycle sculptures in Lincoln, NE.

At they track pedestrian fatalities among other key issues.

Mike Wagner 8 years, 8 months ago

Well if Saint Louis did it we should to, they are such clean looking city! I am also concerned about rider safty, but putting trashy old bikes with 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of rust proof (yea right!!!) paint chained to signes and poles just seams like a really bad long term idea. For one thing nobody will see it at night and that's when people need the reminder! If every single rider had proper lights then we probably would not be having this discussion! Let's face it drunk drivers don't see half of the things they should, do you think they will give 2 s#*ts about a white bike locked to a sign or pole??? Please find another way to keep her memory alive! Also why have no arrests been made, or charges filled? He was drunk! He and his passengers left the scene and did not report!

sunflower_sue 8 years, 8 months ago

I spent some time in Davis, CA...a community that strongly supports biking. While I would love to see more people bike here, I hated driving along the bike lanes. I lived in constant fear that I would make a right hand turn in my car and not see a cyclist coming up fast behind me in the bike lane. The cyclists there have no fear and would constantly pass cars with blinkers turned on. If bikes were in the road (rather than in bike lanes), they would be much more visible and I think the liklihood of being hit by a car would decrease. If this memorial goes up, I would like it also to serve as a reminder to cyclists that they need to be more cautious, also. I've seen far more riders, without helmets, zipping in and out of traffic, riding on sidewalks, and having no lights on after dark, than those obeying the rules of the road. Motorists need to be more aware, but cyclists also need to be extra careful. A few weeks ago I saw a man with two young children (all on bikes) crossing against traffic at a busy intersection...just looking for and riding through the "holes" in traffic. The man should be flogged for teaching such bad behaviour to children. I hope they made it home safely.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 years, 8 months ago

I agree with many of the posters here, I think that drivers need to be more aware of EVERYTHING on the road..Not a day goes by that I do not see some jerk running a red light that has been yellow since he was in the middle of the previous block. But cyclists also must be more aware. I go to work in the pre-dawn darkness and frequently see bikers with NO lights, dark clothing and failing to signal their intentions at turns. Bikers have the same rights to the road as cars, but they also have the responsibilities to act as if their life depended on it. IT DOES!!!!!!

sunflower_sue 8 years, 8 months ago

Seamus, I saw a cyclist zip across an intersection against traffic. I saw him coming, so even though I had the green light, I stayed put. However, the minivan coming up on my right had no such view and proceeded through the intersection doing about 30 mph. The bike slammed into the rear driver's side panel of the van and went flying. His bike was a crumpled heap, he did quite a bit of damage to the van, but luckily, he seemed relatively unhurt. (He was not wearing a helmet so was extra lucky in the unhurt department.) If the cyclist had hit that intersection half a second sooner, I have little doubt that he would have been gravely injured or dead. I guess I just wanted to point out that bikes can damage cars as well. What if that van would have seen him coming and swerved into a pole or something? Lots to consider. My young daughter was with me at the time and watched the whole encounter. Her reaction was to say (about the cyclist): "What an idiot!" I always applaud the cyclists that are following the rules, but unfortunately, they are in the minority in Lawrence.

LadyJ 8 years, 8 months ago

Well seamus you didn't mention it was a single light on the back and also headlights are lower and they are not LED which specifically warns you not to shine them into eyes. I thought you meant the kind that has about six lights kind of like a flashlight that you wear in the front that I have seen cyclist wearing.

imwithstupid 8 years, 8 months ago

I was in Ireland a few years back and noticed that all the motorcyclists and bicyclists were wearing a distinctive reflectiving vest. We were talking about it and our tour guide stated that all cyclists (motor or otherwise) were required to wear a helmet and reflective vest that were unobscured by backpacks and such.

I like the idea of the memorial and think that it would have a positive result and raise awareness. But I also hope that the cycling community in Lawrence takes the initiative to protect theirselves. What is the cost of your life in comparison to the cost of lights and reflective vest? I was always taught to be a defensive driver and I think cyclist should think defense as well. I know these measures may not always work but they would increase the odds. Look out for yourself.

Good luck with approval for the memorial, I hope it gets passed.

Ceallach 8 years, 8 months ago

I would favor adding a short statement to the plaque, change it to include, "by a drunk driver."

laika 8 years, 8 months ago

To everyone complaining in this thread: This is not going to be a half-hearted effort, the cycling community in Lawrence is deeply distributed by this incident and is going to create an effective and appropriate memorial. Please take your anecdotal and opinionated bloviating somewhere else.

cms 8 years, 8 months ago

Big NO to roadside memorials! Accidents happen. Accidents will always happen. Roadside memorials are distractions to drivers and riders alike. We want all eyes on the road. THAT is how some accidents can be prevented.

LadyJ 8 years, 8 months ago

I lIke the idea but would like to know if this would be in front of someones property. I think we need to hear their opinion since they are the ones that will have to weed eat around it and have to look at it every day. Please don't leave the property owner out of the decision.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 8 months ago

I would think a temporary memorial might be appropriate, say six months or so. This is so sad for all parties involved and it can't hurt to remind all of us that cars and bikes share the road.

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

sunflower_sue (Anonymous) says… " If bikes were in the road (rather than in bike lanes), they would be much more visible and I think the liklihood of being hit by a car would decrease"

I completely agree. Merrill's bike lanes were meant as "traffic calming" devices, not the safety of the bicyclist. The thought was by making the road narrower by adding bike lanes that drivers, afraid of hitting cyclists, would slow down. The bicyclist riding on the side of the road would slow traffic by being moving human traffic cones. A callous use of human beings at best, so what if cyclist are put in danger?

The concrete traffic furniture in the middle of Barker was also supposed to slow traffic by making the road more narrow forcing traffic toward the curbs. Great except if your riding a bike on Barker and the net effect is many more close passes between cars, trucks and bicyclist.

Painting white lines on already narrow, dark roads makes the situation more dangerous, not less, and I doubt it would have made any difference to drivers like Joel Cedric Hernandez.

gsxr600 8 years, 8 months ago

I think lighting in this town would have more of an impact than anything. Light the damn streets, light your damn bike at night. Be as visible as possible. There's a reason why bicycles are required to have lighting at night, also why all motorcycles must have DRLs equipped. It saves lives. It was only a matter of time until something like this happened. I've come close to hitting bicyclists at night before completely sober. Driving down a dimly lit street with those crappy halogen bulbs they still use in cars, coming up on a bicyclists with no reflectors/lights is a situation that could become deadly for anyone, sober or hammered.

And I think if you're going to run PSAs about motorists being more aware of cyclists, you better run a PSA about bicyclists being aware of the laws.

notjustastudent 8 years, 8 months ago

People need to take the time to read the article before they post-

The article clearly states that it will be a steel memorial, not an actual bike

The article clearly states the memorial is to remind everyone on the road to be more cautiousand responsible, not just motorists or cyclist. Adding "by a drunk driver" would change the purpose of the memorial, and there is no evidence yet he was drunk (everyone who isn't an idiot knows it's true, but that doesn't count so to speak).

The article clearly states that that the memorial would be on the SW corner of 9th and Tenn. This is a business, not a house, so no one would have to look at it all the time. Beyond that, it would be on public property- the corner- so they wouldn't be responsible for it maintaining it, the city or the people who put it up would.

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

notjustastudent (Anonymous) says… "The article clearly states that that the memorial would be on the SW corner of 9th and Tenn. This is a business, not a house, so no one would have to look at it all the time."

Except for the people who work at the business. Well and those that frequent the business. Well and those that use 9th or Tennessee Streets regularly. But aside from those who work and frequent the business and those that regularly use 9th or Tennessee, nobody would have to look at it all the time.

I'm in favor of a memorial, but not just for bicyclist killed by drunk drivers, but something for all those killed by drunk drivers who leave the scene of an accident. Perhaps a Jake "Booze Cruzin" Deckert wing at the county jail?

GodsChild22 8 years, 8 months ago

I do think this would be a great idea. It would remind all of us to be a little safer. And to answer BigMikes question. Considering the driver did not turn himself in and everyone else in the car was completely cooperative with telling the story, they still cannot arrest him until the evidence is all collected and the information is sent to the D.A. He cannot be charged just because the other people in the car said he did it. He has to confess or the D.A. has to get the information and make the decision. This is a process that will be handled, but does take time. Everyone just needs to read the articles and stop assuming they know everything. And if you know someone in the car, it is not a great idea to get on here and post everything you heard. Let the law enforcement take care of it because you are not helping the situation. They have all of the information needed, but cannot be released yet.

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

GodsChild22 (Anonymous) says… "He cannot be charged just because the other people in the car said he did it. He has to confess or the D.A."

Just where did you go to Law School? Although it is not possible to be convicted based solely on a confession, many a person has been charged and convicted based upon eyewitness testimony without confessing.

GodsChild22 8 years, 8 months ago

That is true and you misunderstood what I was saying Sigmund. I was stating he could not be arrested on the spot for eyewitness testimoy. Regardless of the situation, the information still has to go to the D.A. before he can even be charged and arrested. He will be of course, but he wasn't on the spot for that reason. See that is what happens on these blogs. People misunderstand your words and it gets twisted and it's like the telephone game and all of a sudden there are rumors and drama everywhere.

parrothead8 8 years, 8 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says… "...rigorous enforcement of traffic laws on bicyclists just as such laws are enforced on the operators of motor vehicles."

If the traffic laws are enforced on cyclists at the rate they are enforced on operators of motor vehicles, cyclists don't have much to worry about.

At any rate, the threat of a ticket isn't a deterrent for operators of motor vehicles, so I doubt it will be for cyclists. Real change has to come from us, not from the government.

LadyJ 8 years, 8 months ago

notjustastudent says "The article clearly states that that the memorial would be on the SW corner of 9th and Tenn. This is a business, not a house, so no one would have to look at it all the time. Beyond that, it would be on public property- the corner- so they wouldn't be responsible for it maintaining it, the city or the people who put it up would."

I did a Google streetview of the SW corner. What I see is a street light pole in the grass right next to a fire hydrant. Who mows that grass and will this cause a problem for firefighters? These issues need to be addressed, it may be public property technically but the property owner does the upkeep. Another fitting memorial would be to have free bike lights and reflector clinics complete with installation.

LadyJ 8 years, 8 months ago

On second thought, put it up and make the three people involved keep it up weekly. That way they are reminded of Rachel weekly. If they move away, they have to pay someone to do it.

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

GodsChild22 (Anonymous) says… "That is true and you misunderstood what I was saying Sigmund."

You're correct, I was confused by your post. So just to be clear the police can arrest based upon probable cause, but do not charge anyone. The D.A. can bring charges based solely on eyewitness testimony even if the police haven't arrested anyone.

hhh333 8 years, 8 months ago

Dear Dylan, if you're reading. Your approach is going to end badly-- so much effort to get a ghost bike approved? In every other city you take a junk bike, paint it white, make a sign, place it, and hope it lasts long enough to have been worth the effort; in Chicago we have bikes that have been up for years, others that need to be put back now and then. I guess I don't understand the whole "planning to create a ghostbike" thing-- why is this so complicated? But again, trying to go through channels is a huge waste of your effort-- you're dealing with bean-headed civil servants who don't care one iota about making their city better, and won't understand why anyone would. Your effort has got the feel of "the more you talk about something, the less likely it is to happen"-- just do it.

parrothead8 8 years, 8 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says… I agree but the problem is that bicyclists are “NOT” changing.

Just go Downtown and watch them run consecutive stoplights and stop signs.

Agreed, Marion. I put more miles on my bicycle than on my car, so I know exactly how poor the driving skills are of most cyclists. But the bicyclists are not the only part of the problem...they're just the ones that pay the heaviest price. The behavior of automobile drivers isn't changing either, and I don't need to tell you to go anywhere to figure it out, because I'm sure you already know.

So I say again: the change has to come from us...ALL of us. Neither side can be so arrogant as to say, "Well, I'm not changing. THEY'RE going to have to change." It doesn't work like that, and I don't want the government stepping in to fix it for us.

Katara 8 years, 8 months ago

LadyJ (Anonymous) says… Another fitting memorial would be to have free bike lights and reflector clinics complete with installation. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I think this is a much better idea than a ghost bike. It is more proactive and from what I have read about Ms. Leek in the comments seems more fitting in the memory of such a promising young woman.

mytwocents 8 years, 8 months ago

Ghost Bike Memorial. Yes.

Wider, Pedestrian and Biker friendly, well-lit sidewalks in areas other than West Lawrence. Yes.

Free Bike Lights w/ Installation. Yes. (Remember, a lot of poor people depend on bikes for transportation. They don't have that extra $50 to buy extra lights, especially when they get stolen off or rattle of your bike on a regular occasion.)

PSA on motorist/biker safety. Yes. (By the way, KJHK has been running one.) Illinois Department of Transportation put out this one: (watch! very informative on how to avoid bike/car accidents!)

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