‘Ghost Bikes’ parked around city to bring awareness, remembrance of cyclists killed on Houston streets

HOUSTON -- Lurking in the shadows, chained to fences, poles and stop signs, white bikes echo through the city of Houston, haunting local parks, roadways and even bike lanes with one simple message to drivers: AWARENESS.

White bikes, better know as Ghost Bikes, act as a memorial to bicyclists who were fatally struck on Houston streets. The bikes are used as a statement to be the voice for cyclists who are silenced.

Melissa Card had no idea what a ghost bike was until she found herself in need of one, in order to be closer to her nephew.  At the age of 22, Wesley Edward Mein was killed by a drunk driver in October 2014.

His ghost bike represents healing, parked in a sacred place so his Aunt Melissa and other family members can be near him.

"This bike just symbolizes what happened to him and puts awareness out to people that maybe they will look a second glance for somebody walking, riding a bike or broken down for that matter. Even though he is not with us, he is with us." said Card.

The volunteer group Houston Ghost Bike spray paints the bikes white for fallen victims. The go on to finish off the bike with a personal name plaque to honor the cyclist.

The group places the ghost bikes near crash sites as a reminder of the tragedy. Parking the ghost bike in place with a chain and lock.

"We were basically angered. There were so many accidents and so many fatalities and nothing was being done,  and that's how the movement started with Houston Ghost Bikes," said Judith Villarreal.

Families and friends of victims often decorate the bikes with flowers and personal keepsakes in hopes that someone will take a moment to stop and ask why.

Unfortunately, there are nearly 40 ghost bike memorials across the city and more are popping up at rapid rates, as there is no shortage of headlines involving cyclists hit and killed.

Earlier this week, a woman was struck and killed by a dump truck while riding her bike near Rice University.

According to the 2017 "Houston Galveston Area Council" safety report,  889 bicycle-involved crashes were reported in 2016; that's over an 8% increase from the year before. Out of those 889 crashes, 21 were fatal.

In a city known for welcoming thousands of cyclists by hosting events like Tour de Houston  and The BPMS 150,  it is ironic that Houston is not exactly known for being "bicycle friendly."

Mayor Sylvester Turner is hoping to change that. The Mayor recently accepted the Build 50 Challenge from Bike Houston, which is an $11 million project to enhance much-needed bike safety.

In just 12 months, the Build Fifty Challenge will build 50 miles of on-street bike-ways and off street trails for cyclists, hoping to make Houston a better mobility city.

So the next time you see a cyclist pedaling down your street, show some respect by sharing the road.

Because ghost bikes are real.