I’ve seen at least three white bicycles adorned with flowers tethered to poles around Portland and Milwaukie. What gives? Do the bikes represent a location where a cyclist was hit by a car? An art installation? Or just one person’s attempt at being whimsical? —JoyGirl
Unless you’re the sort who finds pictures of stillborn infants “festive,” describes Berlin Alexanderplatz as a “romp,” and considers Pol Pot a “party animal,” you probably wouldn’t characterize the stark memorials known as ghost bikes as “whimsical.” “Somber, bordering on eerie” might be more le mot juste.
As you’ve correctly guessed, each bike commemorates a bicyclist who was killed at that location. To be frank, I’ve always found the bikes’ purpose to be painfully obvious, but—lucky for you, darling readers—there’s more to the story.
First, it turns out that, as Portland-y as they seem, ghost bikes weren’t our idea. They began in 2003, in St. Louis, and apparently touched a nerve worldwide: New York-based ghostbikes.org now records the memorials in 150 cities spread over 22 countries, including 20 here in Portland. (There’s even a map, in case you want to plan a rather depressing tour.)
While Portland can’t take credit for inventing ghost bikes, we may take some consolation in the fact we’ll be in the movie: Meaghan Wilbur, a New York filmmaker so indie she didn’t immediately answer emails from the press, is in post-production with the Ghost Bikes Film Project, which includes footage shot in Portland last summer.
Information about exactly where and when the film might be released is currently only being made available to the project’s Kickstarter backers. This strikes me as a hell of way to run a railroad, but what do I know? Maybe if we keep looking both ways at every intersection, we’ll see it coming.