Houston Ghost Bike Sacred Spaces of Remembrance
By James F
I had the bitter sweet pleasure of meeting the family of Michael Demny a few weeks ago. When I went out to see them 'set the bike' I had no idea that I would be entering into a sacred space. What I didn't expect, that morning was what I will call 'church service', and in the middle of the street. At age 13, this boy, Michael Demny was stuck by a car on his bike in front of Hogg Middle School Dec. 19, 1996. He died - probably instantly, considering how far he was thrown. The teen driver who struck him, panicked and fled. A typical scenario for bicycle rider fatalities. I witnessed first hand what this Ghost Bike group does, for families, on a very personal level.
A Letter From Richard Tomlison Founder of Houston Ghost Bike
When a person dies on a bike while using the roads of the Greater Houston area, we will take a bike and strip it to the non essential parts. We then paint the bike white and place it as close to the actual accident site as we possibly can.
There are a few variables which determine placement. For one, the bicycle has to be chained to the least objectionable piece of infrastructure or in some cases a tree near the site of the accident. The bike cannot block or interfere with walkways, traffic, business, or homes.
When the bicycle is set, it is touched up with a little paint, and we attach a decal with contact information. This is important in the case that a family member would like it moved or adjusted, or has a specific need. It is our deepest desire to accommodate families in every possible way available to us.
Lastly, we attach a plaque which has been laser etched with the name of the deceased and the date in which the incident took place.
Adopt A Bike
Now I want to share a little about our 'Adopt A Bike' program. It is not a club, there is nothing to join, and you don't need permission from anyone. We invite anyone inclined to attach flowers, streamers and pinwheels or anything that moves you, with a zip-tie to any of the bicycles. It may be for personal reasons connected to that particular memorial, or it may be in support of our efforts, and for that we thank you sincerely. Please take a picture if that is the case, and feel free to promote it on social media. Link us to it, spread the awareness, educate the public, be the change.
Borrow A Bike
A part of this practice and work, is that we meet people every day, who have been survivors! So, a result of this has been the development of our 'Borrow A Bike' program. We accept donations of bicycles and if they are near working condition, than rather than use them for ghost bikes, we will work to get these bicycles in condition for the road.
Survivors typically incur medical and sometimes legal expenses. Compound these with time away from work, and for some, adds up to a devastating set back. We take the bicycles that we are able to recover to working condition, and match them with people who are recovering from an accident. It gets them back on the road, back to work and wherever they need to go.
We now have a Paypal account, to accept donations, and sell t-shirts to share the word. We also, are working on an educational program to move around throughout the schools.
Lastly, we want to give a big hug, and heaping measure of thanks to all who have participated in this labor of love this far. Also, we cannot emphasize enough, how each memorial is a collective effort by all participants to turn Houston culture around. We look forward to the day, when everyone is able to freely share the road space, regardless of the method of transportation chosen. Save a life, spread the word. Share your stories, take a minute to remember, and be kind to one another.
Bicycle Donation Drop Sites
Blue Line Bike Lab
3302 White Oak Dr. Houston TX 77007 - 713.802.1707
Telephone Rd. Houston TX 77023 - 713.923.5564
6607 Braeswood Houston Texas 77096 On the corner of Braeswood and Fondren – 713-777-5333
We will also be accepting bicycle shoes.