NPR logo A Ghost Bike Flies Its Colors

Personal/Private

A Ghost Bike Flies Its Colors

The "ghost bike" at 36th Street and Sixth Avenue in New York City. hide caption

toggle caption

You never really get used to seeing them, or at least I don't: ghost bikes, junkers painted white and chained to a street sign or bridge railing. They record the spots where cyclists have been killed by cars. Two of them mark a popular car-free bike path in Manhattan — a reminder that there may be safest and safer, but there's no such thing as perfectly safe.

I've been wondering for a while now whether the ghost bike above commemorates David Smith. He was killed in December 2007, at the age of 65, while riding the same bike lane I take to work. The white cycle sits on the northwest corner of 36th Street and Sixth Avenue. It catches my eye in the last three minutes of my ride.

Smith was knocked out of the lane when a passenger in an illegally parked truck opened the door. A second truck hit him. I remember reading that his partner of 36 years was a man. I remember thinking, Hit the door. Fall toward the curb. Stay out of traffic.

As if, in the moment, a cyclist really has much choice about what happens.

This morning, I zipped up a very quiet Sixth Avenue — it's amazing what 5:30 a.m. does to traffic — dodging takeout containers and bottles left over from the city's Gay Pride celebration. And there was the ghost bike, newly decorated with flowers and a rainbow flag. Happy Pride, David Smith. Wish you were here.