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First Person: Danny Gamboa helps place 'ghost bikes' to honor fallen cyclists




Danny Gamboa puts finishing touches on a ghost bike.
Danny Gamboa puts finishing touches on a ghost bike.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Danny Gamboa puts finishing touches on a ghost bike.
Danny Gamboa carries a bike from his car to an intersection in North Hollywood on Thursday morning, Nov. 6, 2014 where a cyclist was killed two days before.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Danny Gamboa puts finishing touches on a ghost bike.
Before placing a bike as a memorial, Danny Gamboa walks around the area to ask residents exactly where the collision occurred. Volunteers try to place the ghost bikes as close as possible to the scene.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Danny Gamboa puts finishing touches on a ghost bike.
After locking the ghost bike to a pole, Danny Gamboa touches up the bicycle with white spray paint. Usually, the Ghost Bike Foundation leaves the name of the cyclist on the bike; however, the name of this cyclist has not yet been released.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Danny Gamboa puts finishing touches on a ghost bike.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Danny Gamboa puts finishing touches on a ghost bike.
After placing bikes, Danny Gamboa likes to photograph them. Gamboa is now working on a documentary about the Ghost Bike Foundation.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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The first "ghost bikes" were created in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003. Since then, they've appeared in more than 200 locations around the world.  

Ghost bikes are roadside memorials, "stripped of most of their parts, painted white, and placed at locations where cyclists are killed, usually by motorists," says ghost bike volunteer Danny Gamboa. The memorials are also meant to serve as a reminder to drivers, he says.

"Not a lot of people know that a lot of cyclists are losing their lives on our streets, so we want to raise that awareness and we want that ghost bike to be a catalyst for change in everybody's community," says Gamboa.

The Los Angeles Times reported recently that the number of hit-and-run collisions in L.A. County involving bicycles rose 42 percent from 2002 to 2012, while the overall number of hit-and-run collisions involving cars, cyclists and pedestrians fell 30 percent during that time. Between 2010 and 2012, California had the most cyclists killed by motorists - 338 - of any state, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Gamboa says he started placing and documenting ghost bikes in Southern California in 2011. He and other volunteers founded the Ghost Bike Foundation this year "with a generous donation from Dan Montenegro, a father of a cyclist that we placed a ghost bike for by the name of J.C. Galaviz."

The group has volunteers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ventura County, L.A. County and the Inland Empire, says Gamboa. There are nearly two dozen volunteers, "with a core group of seven," he says, adding that they have placed more than 100 ghost bikes in Southern California. Some can be seen here.

Ghost bikes are the subject of a political tug-of-war in Los Angeles. The city's Bureau of Street Services has proposed that ghost bikes be removed after 30 days. L.A.'s Bicycle Advisory Committee - backed by the Ghost Bike Foundation - has suggested that the city allow the memorials to stay up for at least a year, and establish a process for installing permanent memorials. 

The Ghost Bike Foundation partners with cycling groups around Southern California, and organizes rides and candlelight or bike light vigils, says Gamboa. The group is also setting up a family support group, he says, "where we plan to create a safe place for family members of victims of cycling collisions to come and talk and have access to social workers and legal information provided by independent lawyers."

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