Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sarah Chapman Article and Ghost Bike In Saturday's HSV Times

I can not believe that this is a controversy. Why would any one see this as anything but a memorial to bring attention to a tragedy. I am also concerned that a UAH Professor and cyclist has a problem with this. It seems that the very conservative nature of this "community" infects all aspects of life here.

Please email the city to demand that something be done. Consider PSA's to Educate all of us, This includes: Drivers, the Police, Cyclist's and Pedestrian's.

Tommy Battle

From the HSV Times

Report says driver glanced away just before accident

The driver of a sports-utility vehicle that struck and killed a 20-year-old bicyclist Monday was distracted by her cell phone, according to a police traffic accident report.

Huntsville police Sgt. Mark Roberts said investigators have ruled Sarah Chapman's death as accidental and don't anticipate any charges against the driver.

"It was just an accident, as far as we can tell," he said. "It's one of those terrible things we wish didn't happen."

The SUV's driver told police that she had turned her windshield wipers on and had glanced down at her beeping cell phone just before her 1994 Jeep Cherokee struck the bicycle, the report said.

A witness told police that Chapman, a University of Alabama in Huntsville student, was cycling "a bit erratic" before the SUV hit her. Police believe Chapman was trying to avoid an obstacle in the street on Technology Drive when she was hit from behind.

The accident report shows police didn't think the SUV's driver was drinking or using drugs when the accident occurred, and her estimated speed was 40 mph - the speed limit on that stretch of road.

The wreck was the result of the SUV driver not being in control her vehicle, the report said.

Chapman was wearing a helmet, the report said, but it came off when the SUV struck her.

A group of local cyclists left a "ghost bike" at the site of the wreck Friday afternoon.

"Ghost bikes" are nothing more than old bikes spray-painted white and left at a wreck site as a memorial, said cyclist Victor Burlingame.

Burlingame, who works at Bicycles Etc. on Meridian Street, said he had posted a picture on his blog of a ghost bike - popular in cities like Chicago and New York - and other cyclists here picked up on the idea and decided to leave one for Chapman.

"They're meant to build awareness and serve as a memorial," Burlingame said. "Having a bike there lets you know that something tragic happened."


Bello Velo said...

I sent mine in.

To Our City Officials,

I am writing to urge that the city act on behalf of the terrible tragedy that happened to Sarah Chapman while she commuted to school by bike. I am sure you are well aware that she was killed in an accident involving a SUV and a Cell Phone. The city has not done enough to educate it's citizens about the rules and laws of the rode. I ride my bike as a choice and many ride there because they can not afford to drive or afford to fill their cars with gas. I understand that bike lanes are costly and will take time to implement. The City could and should start a Driver, Cyclist, Police, and Pedestrian education program. this could be done simply by doing PSA's on the public access channels and also get the local papers, bike shops etc involved with printed materials provided by the City. This would be a start and many progressive cities around the US have done this with great success. Portland, Louisville, and New York.

Why not take this tragedy and do something positive about it? I have been pulled over twice in the last month by HPD and told to get on the sidewalk( a wet brick sidewalk) I know the law but apparently some in the HPD do not. If it fails there then it is no wonder why it fails elsewhere. The Mayor and city could do more to bridge the gap of driver hostility towards people who cycle or walk. We have the same rights to the road and should not receive the death penalty because we are and inconvenience.

Thank You
A Registered Voter

clintpatty said...

I agree with both you and that UAH professor that the accident and changing the situation in Huntsville should be the primary focus, not the ghost bike. I can also understand that the city workers may need to access the light pole for maintenance. And I like Jamie's idea of setting up the ghost bike on the right of way without using a city structure.

Bello Velo said...

The ghost bike just brings awareness clint thats all. It is in the paper we are all having a dialogue. Amelia seems to be more about her and her recreational rides which none of us have an issue with she has had a issues with critical mass ghost bikes etc... So it seems safe to side with both. What is done is done. You, me and amelia's are just opinions, whoever put the ghost bike up took "action" that is what is important right or wrong, legal or illegal.

Peter said...

Who is Amelia and what did she say? I'd like to see this blog. Or, is it just email traffic you are referring to? Did the ghost bike get taken down?

I didn't know Sarah, but this whole thing has touched me to the core. I am just getting to know you folks and have recently become a bike commuter over the summer. So, I am getting a firsthand taste of the troubles cyclists encounter on the streets of Huntspatch.

I have a friend who is a photographer for UAH who says that Sarah was a very positive influence on campus in her short college career. Someone correct me on this if I'm wrong, but I also heard that her boyfriend was a few miles behind her when the accident happened, only to find the wrecked bike and blood on the ground that HPD had left behind. Typically, they bring in a wrecker to haul a car away in an accident don't they? Why did they leave the bike?

As far as the ghost bike is concerned, what about the countless number of white crosses I have seen around town memorializing people in auto accidents? Some of them I have seen up for months. Are these eventually torn down too?

I do understand that a city needs to have ordinances for signage and such, but this is a community in mourning and, in my humble opinion, should be left up for a while. Perhaps the ghost bike is seen as a political statement for bicycle activism and not an appropriate means of remembering Sarah. How do her parents feel about this?

At the very least, I see the ghost bike as a warning sign to motorists. If the city isn't going to take the initiative like other more progressive cities have done, then someone needs to. A handful of piddley little signs to designate bike routes isn't going to cut it. A better effort must be made to legitimize cycling on streets with obvious markings, bike lanes and sharrows to send a message to motorists that cyclists have a right to be here - watch out for them.

It is all so very sad. But as BelloVelo suggested, something positive can be done about this instead of sweeping it under the rug as just another accident. Perhaps that is up to us. I'm composing a letter to city officials right now.


clintpatty said...

The original response:

"Please do not send emails about this to the list of folks *** suggests. There's nothing wrong with a memorial (I knew Sarah!), but it has to be in accord with the laws. I only emailed the list about this because I did not know who put up the ghost bike and wanted them to know they needed to move it.

This (ghost bike) is NOT something to harass city hall about. Better to focus on bicycle friendly roads and drivers and suchlike, please. Focusing on the ghost bike memorial (placed in a place it should not be) is not going to help our cause as a club trying to work for safer cycling in the HSV area.

I'm sure the person who placed the bike can move it to a spot that will not be in violation of any laws or ordinances."

clintpatty said...

As far as they have indicated, the issue the city has is the light pole it is locked to, not the memorial.

Bello Velo said...

Its been removed and we have all been down this rode actually Amelia response was not this and then she proceeded to talk about how she was almost ghosted( not appropriate considering) because someone yelled at her.

Clint we all know you are for following the rules to a tee and that is great before you but you seem to be in the minority.

Also the Ghost Bike is a memorial to sarah and it was in the paper and more people are going to possibly be aware of this. So why would any sane and reasonable person be against it.

Maybe If SCCC would harass the city instead of kissing their ass things may change and maybe you might consider this too.

Anonymous said...

So why not remove the chain and leave it?

Tyler said...

the fact is there is no safety issue attaching a chain to a light pole it doesn't restrict access to work on electrical issues that might occur. don't debate the issue of the light pole a girl lost her life I would rather have of life back then to have to have a bike secured to a light pole

Bello Velo said...


preventtragedies said...

City wanted ghost bike gone.

a) calls attention to unpleasant issue
b) was on light pole-- not sure if they are maintained daily or whether it actually needed maintaining or it was one of those, one day it might need need maintaining
c) it was illegal whether on light pole or not just as those white crosses. Crosses are ignored because god forbid someone disturb a kristian memorial. Bikes are not kristian, b/c jesus rode a donkey (four foot drive/ all terrain vehicle / mammal.
d) if people know about the accident & the details, changes could occur.
e) changes mean things are not the way they are. Therefore they are bad, wrong, immoral or some combo plate.
f) knowledge = power
g) it could hurt the economy b/c cellphones might be implicated & thus restricted during driving, thus reducing use, thus need thus a downward spiral of cellphoning. Same could happen to SUVs if people found out that driving them with one hand, while chatting, and not paying attention and assuming personal responsibility for actions could kill people in a way that they could be held liable for their chosen actions. The world as we know it, could collapse.

Tyler said...

To peter say a lot of this stuff did start from email traffic we could forward it to you if interested the bike was placed there late thursday night and email began running all over the place before 9 o'clock friday morning and the bike was removed before lunch without even giving anyone time to move to a more acceptable location the sad fact is that the bike would have been removed regardless of where it was and it is most likely someone decided to chain it to a pole to prevent someone else from tampering with the bike

onegoaltwopaths said...

Peter: Amelia Baldwin, PhD is an Acctg Instructor/professor at UAH (now called The Univ. of AL in HSV. Amelia is also the Spring City Cycling Club's (SCCC) Ride Captain. I think she is in charge of announcing official SCCC rides and controlling the SCCC rides forum on Yahoo Groups. Amelia is also a USAcycling B official, though I actually don't know what that is but it is important enough to always include in her signature lines.

While we all have our opinions, Amelia's emails say for us not to express our opinions and she judged the comment about politely emailing political figures as "harassment", here is a copy of the quote "This (ghost bike) is NOT something to harrass city hall about." She says that it will not help the Club. "Focusing on the ghost bike memorial (placed in a place it should not be) is not going to help our cause as a club trying to work for safer cycling in the HSV area."

Some of use disagree with her on many fronts including: the ghost bike issue, expressing opinions and their effect on SCCC, whether most cyclists in HSV are even members of SCCC, and whether SCCC members are required to remain hushed or obligated to one party line.

SCCC does provide many wonderful cycling outlets and is a bike club of longstanding. It is my understanding that it concentrates on road biking, racing, and mountain biking but doesn't typically sponsor or promote other types of bike riding. I think many fixie cyclists, commuters, trials, BMX, younger teen & college cyclists, and other "alternate" cyclists do not feel many warm & fuzzy feelings toward the clubs administration. Now of course this is not without very notable exceptions, to be fair. I am not anti-SCCC by any means, but I do think Huntsville's cycling community extends well beyond its chosen boundaries and should not be viewed as the one and only true voice of cycling in Huntsville, AL. I am sure she means well and wishes to promote cycling in her own way.

I don't see why cycling groups cannot be more tolerant of each other. I think all kinds of folks can be cyclists. I hope more people will get involved in local cycling and help make it safer.

Marshmallow said...

Actually, the bike, backpack, and helmet(the blood thing was a little extreme. I didn't see any at the time) on the ground was kind of a blessing in disguise. If i had not recognized the backpack I probably would have passed it off as somebody else and it would have taken the police/doctors a really long time to notify her parents and I probably would have gone on my merry way to class and found out from some random person that my girlfriend had died on my thrice daily bike route while on the bike I helped her buy.


manyvoices said...

Before many of you were born (70s or so), rape victims in this country were blamed-- they should not have gone out at night, of course, ti was a dangerous area, what did you expect dressed like that, you asked for it. The witness stand was beyond cruelty, if a woman couldn't document virginity then she was deemed guilty. Through education and insistence, that ingrained attitude was enlightened. Though not perfect, it is significantly better. Today, it is cyclist who are blamed for being killed. By educating people and insisting that their contempt is inappropriate, we CAN change the system. I hope we can work together & remain focused.

We cannot undo this tragedy but we owe it to Sarah and ourselves to ensure positive steps are taken. I think she would likely agree. It is hard to focus anger, frustration, disappointment,and grief but we can. We have to keep insisting thing change until they do change. It will take multiple voices and probably multiple paths to get to a better outcome. But I urge all of us to follow our hearts while using our minds, to educate the public, fight the cycling hate in a positive way, and keep at it until our society as a whole benefits from the change. Baby steps led to bigger things with persistence and focus.

beardsarefun said...

I agree that many newer cyclist dont relate really well to SCCC. It can be intimidating getting involved with an established group with all sorts of preconceptions. I think a lot of SCCC members fall into one of a few groups. 1) old guys who suddenly feel a part of something 2) guys who love anything bike related, 3) lifetime hill-killing cyclist looking for like-minded people to ride with and 4) new cyclist looking to learn what they can and find riding buddys. They dont strike me as eager to change with the times or to take action which may (gasp) result in confrontation. That said, who cares, they ride. They are not your enemy even if they arent your best friend either. There may be some lame guys in there but there are also some really cool members with a lot of experience to share. On the opposite side of the coin, i see a lot of commuters and fixie guys turn their nose up because they see a paceline of watt-measuring guys in dolphin suits blow by and dont relate to them...of course Amelia wouldnt be in the group, you know, cuz she's slow >: ) Either way, we all have cycling in common and want both justice and safe roads. We just take different bikes to get there.

Peter said...

Clint: I understand your concern. Getting sidetracked from the issue of safe roads for cyclists is probably not very productive. Although the subject of the ghost bike is infuriating, I imagine the city will not react positively to “harrassment” about it. They can always fall back on their laws as the excuse for their actions. We need diplomacy. Pehaps that is what SCCC has been trying to develop.

WHEN we all go to the next city council meeting, we need to be organized and convincing. If we prattle on, rant & rave about our special interests like the cooter-bobs complaining about grass being too high, or neighbor not being nice to them, then there’s a likelyhood it will be met with deaf ears. Maybe it won’t since this is such hot topic right now. But, would everyone agree that we would have a better chance of getting our point across if we sounded educated and coherent in front of these people?

I would like to suggest a meeting of the minds a couple of days before gathering at the council meeting. I know this sort of thing goes against the grain of the leaderless environment that the critical mass rides promote, but it might be a good idea to have a spokesperson or spokespeople to stand up to the mic to express the thoughts that we hash out as a unified group. I guess, in a way, this is the same sort of thing that Amelia has done for SCCC, but the main difference is that we could come to some sort of agreement as to what will be said instead of letting it be dictated by one person. Anyway, it is only a suggestion. You can take it or leave it. I don’t have a time or meeting place in mind.

Davis: I want to apologize for my lack of sensitivity when mentioning the blood thing. I was repeating what my friend had told me without thinking about the graphic nature of the imagery. I’m so sorry that I ever brought it up in this blog. I cannot imagine the pain you must be going through right now.

Tyler : Thanks for the offer of forwarding the email exchanges to me, but thanks to onegoaltwopaths’ Reader’s Digest version, I think I have the gist of things.

onegoaltwopaths: Thanks for shedding light on some unanswered questions. I’m not affiliated with SCCC at all, although I went on a couple of RAM rides with them a couple of years ago. I sensed a vibe that dissagreed with me so I didn’t contunue. I’m sure they have their place in this community, but I don’t think they are the only authority on bicycling in this town as they’d like believe.

I do agree, however, that there should be room for tolerance between the different cycling factions. If we don’t get along with eachother and are too distracted with bickering amongst ourselves, we cannot speak with one convincing voice. It’s persuading city hall that needs to be our main focus - persuading them of a need that will be ever so more apparent as gas prices continue to rise.

Bello Velo said...

Thanks Peter,
I would be happy to offer my place in 5 points to meet. I can do it as early as Monday.

I would like to get Davis's thoughts on this before hand. If he could email me off line.

I will start a new post monday AM and we can al get together and start.

Bello Velo said...

I wouild also like to state that this shouldnt be about critical mass, SCCC, alabike and all the other organizations we should all band together as cyclists.

If you want to email me off line to discuss more we can start planning. We are all allowed 3 minutes to speak we have to sign in first. I as thinking we could write it out and each person could speak for 3 mins then hand off to the next person. I do agree we should have a common goal to get something done. I think the most feasible would be for the city to have PSA's printed material, Bike Racks, Signage etc... Bike lanes are not going to get done yet. If we concentrate on one or two goals and then build from there.


Anonymous said...

I think this dialog is good, at least everyone is on the same page now, unity is what we need.

I hope to attend the city council meeting on Thursday. We need to work with the city again and remind them that cycling is a means of transportation and it is not just a sport or hobby...

I think share the road signs would be good as well as well as keeping roads and sidewalks up to date and up to ADA standards (I do like pedestrians too, ya' kinda have to) Plus having a nice sidewalk as a transition once in awhile if you just want to cruise and get out of traffic is okay. What we have now is not working well and is not user friendly for anyone but morontists I mean motorists, oops typo. The planning department has to have a cyclist in the mix who is always barking in their ear to get funding for bike/ped accommodations. There is seperate dialog going on for this issue among Alabike and the consequently the SCCC. I agree with vic and others, as a cyclist we use the road, no matter if we are on a jalopy or a Giant...


beardsarefun said...

Jim, when you go to the meeting, will you at least wear shoes and leave the diggery doo strapped to the bike?
>: )