Ghost Bike

Ghost Bike
Seventeenth of the year

‘Have you seen the bike?” asked Mrs. UpintheValley. “What bike?” “The white bike, up on Lanark Street.  A kind of shrine popped up overnight. Something bad must have happened there.” “There might be a bike there, but I doubt it’s a shrine.” “I’m telling you…it’s a shrine.” Up to the corner the three of us went, and there the bike was, spray-painted funereal white right down to the chain, gears and tires. A procession of  votive candles lined the curb and a garland of roses threaded the spokes.   A flyer clipped to the wheel promoted a film called…well,  Ghost Bike.  It had a distinctly indie-movie look. Horror, perhaps, with artsy pretensions. And a website, of course. In LA, always be marketing. On the heels of Shia LaBoeuf’s skywriting stunt, I confess this filled me with cynicism.  But why there, in Van Nuys, so far off the beaten track? Not exactly a cyclist’s haven.  A visit to the website reveals Ghost Bike  is not a horror film, exactly, but a documentary ‘about members of the cycling community who volunteer to install ghost bikes anonymously at sites where cyclists were killed…and the lives that are affected by the conflict between motorist and cyclists to safely share the road.’ Indeed. But who was killed there? Google filled in the blanks. A neighbor. An unnamed 56-year-old man, struck by a hit-and-run driver two days before Christmas. A police canvas turned up no witnesses. This was certainly news to me, and I bike everywhere. He was the 17th cyclist killed in Los Angeles in 2013.  The seventeenth. There were less than 300 homicides in LA last year, which would make car-on-bike mayhem the third-leading cause of death, behind stabbings and gunshots.