The city has removed a white painted “ghost bike,” one of more than two dozen that have been installed to memorialize dead bicyclists killed on the mean streets.
The move came as a surprise to members of the Visual Resistance artist collective, which installed the ghost bike to honor 34-year-old bike messenger Jonathan “Bronx Jon” Neese, who died in August, 2006 near the corner of South Fourth and Roebling streets, near the base of the Williamsburg bridge.
“The city’s been pretty good,” said Visual Resistence member Ryan Knuckle. “They understand that they’re respectful memorials so they’re not treating them like graffiti or visual pollution.”
But Knuckle quickly added that the removal of Bronx Jon’s bike made him “nervous” about whether the city was about to start a crack-down on the unauthorized memorials.
Parks Department regulations allow inspectors to clear any unattended personal property. And the agency must have prior notification whenever memorials are installed.
“If there’s a memorial we need to know about it,” said Phil Abramson, an agency spokesman. “Otherwise, who’s to say that something is really a memorial?”
Abramson added, however, that he was not aware of the department removing any of the bikes, though he could not speak for other agencies.
The project began in 2005 when a member of Visual Resistance saw a truck hit and kill 28-year-old cyclist Liz Padilla on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.
A bike was painted white and chained to a signpost at the site of the accident, at the corner of Prospect Place.
“We were surprised by how big of a response it got from other cyclists,” Knuckle said. “Friends and families started contacting us and it became a much bigger thing.”
There are now 27 ghost bikes in the city. During the first week in January, hundreds of cyclists visit each on a memorial tour.
A replacement bike is currently being painted for Bronx Jon and is scheduled to be re-mounted next week.
How long it lasts is anyone’s guess.