Two weeks ago in New York, we spotted two Ghost Bikes on our way from Midtown to The Village on foot. These are not a common feature of Baltimore City. In the City Paper‘s bike issue this spring, they interviewed Nate Evans, the City government’s top bike gent:
CP: How does the cycling fatality rate in Baltimore compare to other big cities?
NE: We are actually very low. From 2002 to 2008, we had maybe four fatalities. I think the last one we had was two years ago. The Police Department and DOT share their crash statistics, so we can kind of track where that’s happening. Even New York City, which has a very high number of cyclists, has a very high percentage of bike deaths compared to us.
I should not type this (KNOCK ON WOOD! KNOCK ON WOOD! KNOCK ON WOOD!!!!), but since we have not had a cycling death in Baltimore in like two years (read this article for the rest), I had never seen a Ghost Bike in person before.
You see pictures on the internet or Yehuda Moon, and some of the photos are fantastic and all that. But you have to see people looking at it on their lunch break wondering what the hell it means to appreciate what a startling and…powerful image it is. I could not stop looking at either one, and I really totally and actually felt a tinge of guilt for photographing them.
Despite their message that can really only be conveyed in person, I can’t say I’m an ANY rush to see one around Baltimore — ever. But is it an inevitability? I don’t know. On good days, I think the about the great work that the City government and local activists are doing and that riding in Baltimore gets one very skilled in urban cycling very quickly and so that a cycling death may be another two years off. On other days, I see the way people in general and people in Baltimore drive, and I don’t feel so nicely about our odds as a cycling city and as cyclists who are living beings with families and connections and who the world will miss if we get smashed by a careless cab or sinister SUV or a damned door-prize.
And if/when our next cycling fatality happens, will cycling in Baltimore drop off? Because, I have to say, even with the Baltimore summer setting in, I’m seeing more people riding and more bikes on racks.