Why the bikes aren’t to blame

Ghost bikes may not be invisible, but larger issues seem to be hiding behind them.

The City of Ottawa recently passed a new policy requiring ghost bikes, also known as memorial bikes, to have a six-month limit. But they don’t seem to be looking at the larger issue: Why so many ghost bikes exist in Ottawa in the first place.

Ghost bikes are generally on a sidewalk or grass area near the road to commemorate the death of a cyclist. 

Some people believe the memorial bikes are distracting to drivers and fellow cyclists. While others believe it makes walking unsafe for pedestrians. But, there is some good that comes from these bikes – they make us think. Why is that bike there? Should I be more alert at this intersection? 

The memorial bikes almost act like a roadway sign: Slow down, and keep your eyes open. A flashing beacon saying: “Don’t let this happen again.”

Rather than blame a memorial for being distracting to drivers, why don’t we focus on why those drivers are so easily distracted in the first place. After all, the memorial bike wouldn’t be there if the roads were safer for cyclists in the first place. 

Drivers have so many distractions at any given moment, a colorful bike is not to blame for a driver’s lack of focus. They have cell phones, radio controls, coffee, food, GPS systems, the list goes on and on. Heightened demands for multi-tasking and shortened attention spans call for a reexamination of driving habits at large.

The real issue here isn’t a parked bike with flowers on it, it’s road safety – and it seems we are ignoring this issue entirely. 

By blaming the memorial bikes for being distracting, we are overlooking the real issue: The roads need to be safer. They must be better built, more thoroughly planned out, and have better drivers on them. 

More than 7,000 cyclists are seriously injured in Canada every year, according to CAA. And that isn’t including cyclist deaths. 

We need to teach better driving basics – and enforce them. The amount of times a car turns without a signal, or make right turns in an intersection too quickly, cutting in front of a walking pedestrian, is outrageous. 

Cyclists are more likely to be killed or injured at an intersection, according to CAA. Intersections with traffic lights are more likely to be deadly to cyclists than regular streets. Ironic, since traffic lights are meant to make city streets safer.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. It needs to be treated as such. 

In 2010 distracted driving contributed to 104 collision fatalities in British Columbia, according to CAA’s Distracted Driving assessment. 

Driver distraction is also a factor in over 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America, every year, according to CAA. But, yes, let’s blame the parked bikes for being overly distracting.

The memorial bikes would not be in place if drivers were more careful and less distracted on the roads. If cyclists hadn’t been hit, then memorial bikes wouldn’t be there in the first place. Ottawa needs to start looking at the root of the problem. Removing memorial bikes after six-months is a Band-Aid over a bullet hole. We need a long-term fix.