“Ghost bikes” haunt Bronx landscape

The latest “Ghost Bike” was installed at 132nd Street and St. Ann’s Avenue in Mott Haven last month. There cyclist Louise “Fat Boy” Morales, 18, died while riding his motorcycle near the FedEx distribution center.
Photo by David Cruz

They’re known as Ghost Bikes, haunting shrines that have cropped up across the borough to call attention to what bike advocates call an “epidemic.”

Spraypainted in a ghostly white hue and chained to lampposts and other fixtures, the bikes are memorials for those who died near the location, doing what they love. A metal plaque also lets passerbys know a life was lost.

The practice – with old bikes not involved in the incidents – dates back to 2005. The latest Ghost Bike went up May 3 at St. Anns Avenue and 132nd Street in Port Morris to commemorate the death on that date last year of Louie Morales, 18.

Police said Morales was riding his dirt bike for the first time when he was accidentally hit and instantly killed by a FedEx truck near the entrance to its facility there.

Members of his Ruff Ryders group, a recreational motorcycle team, honored him with a traditional bike. Several roses, now wilted, were placed on the seat.

“He was a true biker and the heart of the team,” read the brief eulogy on the website, ghostbike.org.

Morales was the ninth victim to be remembered with a ghost bike, organized by the group in conjunction with Transportation Alternatives.

Another Ghost Bike memorial sits at Crotona and East Tremont Avenue to mark where community activist Megan Charlop died when she was fatally struck by a city bus.

Richie Powers, Charlop’s widow, said while the ghost Bike gesture is noble, he’d rather avoid going there.

“That location is a reminder of the whole day,” said Powers, who refuses to ride a bike since his wife’s 2010 fatal accident.

The volunteer-based group started out in St. Louis in 2005, expanding as far as the Ukraine.

“It’s important that we recognize someone from our community who’s been killed instead of forgetting it happened,” said Leah Todd, a 7-year volunteer organizer with Ghost Bikes.

Group members learn about the death through phone calls and media reports. Junked bikes are donated to the organization to stand in as memorials for the victims.

“It’s important to draw attention to the deaths because this is an epidemic in the city,” she said.

The city Department of Transportation said only one bike rider died in 2011.

Todd said the organization will keep putting up Ghost Bikes. “We look forward to a day when we don’t have to do it anymore,” she said, “Until then, we’ll keep installing them.”

To learn more about the organization go to www.ghostbikes.org.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or email dcruz@cnglocal.com.

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