Ghost Bike Honors Detroit Cyclist's Life

DETROIT—People driving by Motor City Casino this week may see an old Schwinn painted white and decorated with flowers. The bicycle, propped up against a sign post at the intersection of Grand River and Temple, is what’s known as a ghost bike.

Employees at the Hub of Detroit, a local bike shop, created it to honor Hal Williams, a local cyclist and Slow Roll corker who died following an automobile-bicycle collision last month.

“This is a ghost bike, and we’re locking it up to create awareness of what happened to our friend Hal and what happens on the road,” Hub mechanic and Detroit Greencycle proprietor Joey Landis told Mode Shift during the bike’s installation Thursday afternoon. “We were really surprised when we heard the news [about his death]. He was definitely one of our favorite customers at the bike shop. This is the least we can do.”

In the coming weeks, the bike’s creators plan to add a plaque with Williams' name. They invite members of the public to bring additional locks to secure it.

More than 500 ghost bikes have appeared at over 180 sites around the world since the phenomenon began in St. Louis Missouri in the early 2000s, according to ghostbikes.org.

”They serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner and as quiet statements in support of cyclists' right to safe travel,” the site explains.

Ghostbike.org currently lists only a handful in Michigan, including one in Canton and a Royal Oak ghost bike, believed to be the first in the state, which memorializes Jacqueline Robinson who was killed in a hit-and-run in 2008.

Those involved with Williams’s memorial, which was installed at the same intersection where Councilman Ken Cockrel's son was hit on his bike in 2010, are also interested in installing a ghost bike for another cyclist who was killed in a hit-and-run in Southwest Detroit earlier this week. That person’s identity still remains a mystery.

Detroit Police told Mode Shift that an unidentified man on a bicycle died after being struck by a motor vehicle on Michigan Ave around 32nd Street at about 8:35 p.m. Tuesday night. The suspect, who is thought to have been driving a dark-colored SUV, left the scene of the crime. DPD’s fatal squad is now investigating the incident.

The department’s Office of Public Information had no information about William's death. Landis believes he was riding along Grand River the night of his death.

The two crashes are part of a series of fatal bicycle collisions that have taken place in Detroit in recent weeks. Another cyclist, an eight-year boy named Darrin Wilhite was killed by a hit-and-run driver last month.

Landis told Mode Shift he’s concerned about the incidents and hopes the ghost bike will help raise awareness about safe driving habits.

“It’s got me freaked out,” he said. “I’m nervous about the people I know and those I don’t know too. I want cars to pay attention.”

People with information about hit-and-run incidents can contact the Detroit Police at 313-596-2260 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.

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