Archive for Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ghost bike memorial honors cyclist killed in hit-and-run

A pedestrian crosses the street behind a "ghost bike" placed near the intersection of 10th and Tennessee streets in memory of Rachel Leek, a Lawrence resident who was killed while riding her bicycle as a result of a hit and run accident near the spot in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, 2009.

A pedestrian crosses the street behind a "ghost bike" placed near the intersection of 10th and Tennessee streets in memory of Rachel Leek, a Lawrence resident who was killed while riding her bicycle as a result of a hit and run accident near the spot in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, 2009.

October 14, 2010


Three days before the one-year anniversary of Rachel Leek’s death, friends decided the time had come to build a public memorial.

On Wednesday, they used a pink chain to lock an all-white bike to a no-parking sign on a grassy spot along the 1000 block of Tennessee Street. They then adorned the bike with fresh flowers, gold beads and a picture of Leek.

“Right after putting it up, we noticed people slowing down right there,” said Alyssa Montoya, a good friend of Leek’s.

On Oct. 16, 2009, the 20-year-old Kansas University student was killed by a drunken driver as she rode her bike south on Tennessee Street, not far from where the memorial sits.

The bike, the first of its kind in Lawrence, is the cyclist equivalent of white crosses placed along roadways, which memorialize the victim and remind drivers to be careful. Known as ghost bikes, the memorials are in more than 100 cities throughout the country.

“It really stands for a symbol for all cyclists and drivers to be more aware of each other and be safe. So it doesn’t have to happen anymore,” Montoya said.

The idea of a ghost bike began circulating shortly after Leek’s death.

Friend Dylan Medlock asked the city of Lawrence to allow for a painted bike and an awareness plaque at the corner of Ninth and Tennessee streets. The city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee endorsed the plan and expanded it to include putting other ghost bikes throughout town.

Those plans were later shelved at the request of Leek’s family.

But on Wednesday, a couple of Leek’s friends decided the time had come for a memorial. They used a bike that Montoya had found after Leek’s death and decorated it. Montoya said others are welcome to put their own reminders of Leek on it.

“They stay up in other cities and are maintained, and they really do seem to make a positive impact on people. I am hoping the city of Lawrence will be willing to let it stay,” Montoya said.

Chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee Eric Struckhoff wasn’t aware that a ghost bike had gone up on Wednesday. But he said they are a good way to remind drivers to be cautious of cyclists.

“I have seen them in other cities. And, they do get your attention,” Struckhoff said.


Haiku_Cuckoo 7 years, 4 months ago

It's a nice tribute but I'm kind of surprised that Rachel's friends went against her family's wishes in order to set it up.

KansasOne 7 years, 4 months ago

Agreed that it is a very thoughtful gesture by her friends but I do question if it may present a distraction to drivers.

Gene Wallace 7 years, 4 months ago

She was one of the sweetest ladies to ever ride with me.

alollipauper 7 years, 4 months ago

actually, members of rachel's family visited the bike today and said thank you for putting it up. she was an amazing woman and should absolutely be memorialized. if this memorial presents a distraction to drivers then i suppose we should do away with all the raging college parties and football fans as well. its a positive symbol. its meant to raise awareness.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

I do see these memorials in the KCMO area.

Create pathways on two of the most dangerous streets for both pedestrians and cyclists aka Tennessee and Kentucky. The right of way is available aka existing sidewalks and there is a ton of bike and pedestrian traffic in these areas at all hours.

  1. Widen sidewalks on the eastside of each street to accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians.
  2. Light them up
  3. Provide cross walk signs and markings at each intersection from 7th to 19th to increase awareness of drivers
  4. Decrease speed by 5 mph from 7th to 19th
  5. In the process the city is making it safer for women = rape prevention.
  6. Name these pathways after Rachel.

The investment is small compared to the safety that could be provided. KU students are worth the investment considering the number of jobs and tax dollar revenue they generate Students bring life and culture to Lawrence,Kansas.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 4 months ago

I hope it serves as a frightening reminder to the driver once he is relased from jail.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 4 months ago

I am aware of where Joel is serving his time.

pizzapete 7 years, 4 months ago

I hope this is a reminder to all drivers to be watchful and courteous. I ride my bike nearly every day, and yes I do stop for stop signs and lights. I've been hit by cars twice in this town and have close calls with distracted and or angry drivers on a daily basis. Slow down, don't honk, yell, or rev your engine as you pass a bicyclist you morons. It's beautiful weather to be out on a bike, hope we can all be safe and have some fun out there.

foppa 7 years, 4 months ago

I think it can be a reminder for safety all around. If you are a driver, look out for bikers and respect them. If you are a biker, make sure you follow traffic signs and have proper lighting in your bike at night. And maybe even a reminder to the city to put more lighting in TN and KY, it is really hard to see bikers/ pedestrians at night.

Evan Ridenour 7 years, 4 months ago

I ran by this memorial before I had read about it... I thought it was very well done. I hope the city leaves it up for awhile.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 7 years, 4 months ago

It serves as a good reminder... for the sober. This tragedy is not about paying attention, it's about driving drunk. And I'm sure a number of drunk drivers will drive right by the Ghost Bike tonight without a thought of their foolishness. Therin lies the deeper problem. No amount of streetlights or widened lanes will make up for "drunk".

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