Posted in: Safety,
by Gregg Laskoski on May 6, 2014 05:00 AM
Sometimes we simply become numb to the statistics. Richard Tomlinson, of Silsbee, TX has taken on a unique mission to make sure Houstonians don't forget the victims of fatal bicycle accidents. He is installing memorials all over the city.
Tomlinson is a member of the city's cycling community, and now he's a big part of the Houston Ghost Bike group.
He spends much of his spare time installing 'ghost bikes' -- stripped bicycles painted all white -- across Houston. Each bike corresponds to the death of a cyclist. Is he taking things too far?
So far, the Houston Chronicle says Tomlinson has installed close to 40 memorials. By the time he is done, he will have attached 61 to the side of Houston roads. He hopes to not have install any more past that.
Tomlinson spends his own money, mostly by doing odd jobs, to memorialize fellow cyclists. By his estimate, he spent nearly 35 hours this weekend attaching bikes to fences and telephone poles with heavy duty chain. Every 60 feet of chain costs him $150, he says.
"I try to find the least objectionable piece of structure to attach it to, somewhere that won't interfere with traffic or city work," he says.
Tomlinson, 50, gets the bikes for the somber project from area cycling shops and from private donations. Some people have bikes in their garage they no longer ride or that have been damaged, but they want them to go to good, sobering use.
Each bike is stripped of its chain and gears, things that could get pulled off by people passing by. He paints them with white spray paint in his backyard. He welds the bikes so that they cannot be driven, in case someone removes them from where they have been installed.
He's not responsible for all the ghost bikes in town, but says he's done most of the work. He says some friends and families of loved ones who have died while cycling prefer to do it themselves, and some don't want the bike memorial at all, for various reasons.
In case that happens, all the bikes he's installed have a sticker with his contact information so families can reach him either about removal or any other questions that they might have.
He says his wife doesn't want him to have a ghost bike of his own, so he's sure to wear a helmet whenever he rides himself. He's tried to instill bike safety in his six children and grandson when he can.
"Since I made the pact with my wife, I try to ask everyone whether they wear a helmet or not," said Tomlinson.