Several weeks ago, a young woman riding her bike in the bicycle lane of a busy nearby square was "doored" (hit by a car door opened by someone who was not looking) and knocked off her bike directly into the path of an oncoming truck, which could not stop.
This happened about 3/4 of a mile from my house. Within a day, a Ghost Bike had showed up and was placed, covered in flowers, at the exact location where she had been killed. Since I drive or walk by that location several times a week, it was upsetting to see the bike there.
Bicycling groups around the world have long observed a thought-provoking custom to memorialize fatalities caused by motor vehicles. When a rider has a fatal accident while bicycling, someone will take an old bike and paint it white. They will then place it permanently it at the location of the fatality. These are called "Ghost Bikes." It may sound gruesome; however, it is such a poignant reminder of the perils of biking in a car-saturated urban environment.
Unfortunately, another such bike has now showed up practically at my front door. On August 29th, there was a fatality less than a block from my house. Strangely, I was home with the door open and yet never heard a thing.
There's a commuter train that goes right by my house, and the tracks must cross an unbelievably busy street. I've lived here for decades and have never heard of an accident between this train, which runs frequently, and any vehicle on that road--bus, truck, car, biker, or pedestrian. The crossing is incredibly well marked. Long before the train comes through, loud bells begin to ring, bright lights begin to flash, and two very long barriers come down across the road, one for each direction. Therefore, it was incredibly puzzling to hear that on the 29th, a bicyclist was hit and killed by a commuter train there.
This is a mystery for sure. What really happened? It was broad daylight. It was a fine clear day. All the crossing signals (lights, bells, barriers) were working perfectly. All the cars on either side of the tracks were stopped. Many pedestrians were also stopped, waiting to cross once the train had passed. And other bicyclists were stopped.
All of a sudden, another cyclist came down the road with great speed. Everyone assumed he would stop. When he did not, motorists and pedestrians started yelling for him to stop. He did not. In fact, he actually had to maneuver his bike around the barriers to get onto the tracks--past the lights, the bells, and the barriers. He never stopped, and a large number of horrified observers watched as the train hit the bike and he was killed.
What was going on there? Was this a suicide? Or was he in a rush and did he assume he could make it across before the train? Who was he? What was his history? It seems likely it was suicide, given the fact that he had to really work hard to get onto the tracks and couldn't have failed to notice the signals and barrier.
I will never know. Nor will I know his name.
I'm not a cyclist (too scary around here), but I feel terrible about this, and now I have a Ghost Bike just a stone's throw from my house. Not something I ever wanted to see here.
Rest in peace, whoever you are.
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I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society