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Honouring Killed Cyclists – The Pros and Cons

Whenever a cyclist is killed on Toronto’s streets, the cycling community bands together to remember them with a memorial ride and sometimes a ghostbike installation to bring attention to the fact that cyclists are vulnerable road users, and that all road users (but especially car drivers) should always be careful.

NYC’s Streetsblog asks Memorializing Killed Cyclists: Is it Good For Cycling?, pointing out that sometimes memorial rides and ghostbikes actually scare people away from cycling:

With a new year having just arrived, perhaps it is a good moment for bicycling advocates to take a step back and ask what our goals are and whether heavily publicized memorial rides and prominent Ghost Bikes are helping to achieve those goals. Is there a way to advocate for bike safety improvements and acknowledge cyclists’ deaths and injuries without sending the message to potential new cyclists that New York City is too dangerous to try biking?

Fortunately, another Streetsblog post lists all the good points of memorial rides and ghostbikes. Here’s a partial list for you:

  • The Ghost Bikes memorialize people who deserve to be remembered for their bravery, both physical and cultural.
  • They are an antidote to the sad, ordinary fate of deaths by automobile — to “flicker briefly across the city’s consciousness and then flutter away, leaving in their wake only grieving families and friends.”
  • The Ghost Bikes and Memorial Ride create an opportunity for victims’ families and friends to engage publicly and politically.
  • The Memorial Ride promotes cyclist solidarity.

Personally, I find them bittersweet. It feels good remembering a fellow cyclist who was out there trying to make our city a more livable place with cleaner air and safer streets… but it feels awful knowing that they died doing this.

What’s your opinion?

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