Ghost bikes

, those white bike memorials dedicated to killed cyclists, have become a sadly familiar sight around NYC and cities nationwide. But they could soon become a distant memory if a new proposal [pdf] from the Department of Sanitation is approved. As part of an initiative to clear the sidewalks of unused and junked bikes, the department wants to get rid of Ghost Bikes as well.

If approved, the Sanitation Department would begin removing bikes with missing parts, severely damaged bikes, and those with flat or missing tires. Workers would wrap warning stickers around the "derelict" bikes, and owners would have five days to remove them before the locks are clipped and the bikes carted to landfills. The Ghost Bikes would have 30 days to be taken down voluntarily; there are between 45-50 currently locked around town.

Leah Todd, who heads up the Street Memorial Project here in NYC, tells us, "It would be devastating for many people who use them to mourn or remember or advocate better conditions for safer streets." When asked if the memorial movement had faced opposition in other cities, Todd said, "We've seen a lot of interesting things happen in different cities. In DC when a ghost bike was removed, 21 ghost bikes returned on that corner to replace it on the next day."

"This is shocking. I can't believe it," Lizi Rahman, whose son Asif died on Queens Boulevard, tells the Daily News. "I go there because that's where he breathed last. When I go there, people see me cleaning the ghost bike. They stop and talk to me. They feel close to the family. I come here quite often. I want to continue coming here."

And Noah Budnick at Transportation Alternatives says, "These memorials are part of the grieving process for so many who’ve lost family and friends. Removing them is like the Department of Sanitation managing people’s grief." But Budnick does concede that "the DSNY is moving in the right direction with codifying a policy to tag and remove abandoned bikes. There’s ever growing demand for bike parking in NYC, and... cleaning up abandoned bikes is an important way to keep the bike parking ecosystem healthy." The public will be able to comment on the proposed rules during a July 20th public hearing, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at 125 Worth Street, room 819.