Ghost Bikes Around New Orleans
My dad has this thing he likes to do. He takes pictures of his bike at all the places he rides to, and then puts them on Facebook. He usually has a different photo up every day, that's how often he goes riding.
These are the pictures that make me long for the many trails around Columbus, Ohio and all the back country roads. It's the best time to ride because the air is cool and crisp and the trees have turned. There's even a relaxing earthy smell in the air that takes you back to when you were a kid and jumped in huge piles of leaves. I loved biking in the fall.
I've written about bikes before. I've talked about how I love riding mine to work as it's cathartic and also gets my heart-rate up – a way to squeeze cardio effortlessly into my day. I've also written about getting my bikes (now plural) stolen and the hollow feeling you're left with when someone just takes something that's yours.
But, unfortunately, I never thought I'd actually write about someone I knew getting killed on a bike.
And sure, I've seen the "ghost bikes" and the signs, but it never hit so close to home before. And now there's a "ghost bike" for a co-worker (who always used a helmet and lights) at Claiborne and St. Phillip, where he was thoughtlessly killed last Sunday night by a hit and run. The person didn't even stop to see if he was okay, they just kept driving.
My faith in humanity has taken a serious beating this past week.
And what's even more tragic is that there are so many bike deaths around New Orleans, there has to be a "ghost bike" program to begin with. It's horrifying. But thank God there is one to raise awareness and pay tribute, to memorialize.
And so I want to talk a little bit about bikes again, because I think I've felt too confident or invincible while riding mine. I don't wear a helmet, though I have one. It's not a cool helmet though. I always keep meaning to get a cool one. The lights I had were stolen two bikes ago and I haven't replaced them, because I figured what's the point. I've lately gotten pretty jaded about something I've always enjoyed, even eschewing my bike for awhile and just taking Uber to work. And as an aside, I want to thank the reader who informed me about Lyft. Thank you, kind reader, I really appreciate their tipping feature.
I've felt too confident on my bike because I've always ridden one. My dad is an avid cyclist and made sure that his kids were too. He rode me around in a special carrier on his bike when I was a baby, and as soon as I could walk it was also expected of me to ride. First things first, he taught me to not be afraid of it – and I never was until this week. I've been in exactly two crashes, both when I was a kid. One was when I busted my lip because I wasn't paying attention and ran into a tree. And the other was when I was biking down a sidewalk and a car hit me as they backed out of their driveway. It was nothing, though, just maybe a scrape or two.
I loved riding my bike. The exercise felt good and it was meditative. I could discover the meaning of life while on a long ride. I could clear my mind, focus on the moment. I've done the bike/camp thing where you strap everything you need to your bike, ride miles and miles a day, and take out your sleeping bag at night.
I also loved riding my bike around New Orleans. It's a biking city with so many cyclists. The city has so many clubs and trails and special places to lock up your bike. I love living close to everything, so I could start to think of where things were according to biking distance instead of how long it would take in a car – carbon footprint and all. It felt good. I also loved getting to a destination faster than I would in a car, because as soon as you hit the French Quarter, your time sitting in traffic is always up in the air. But on a bike? You just zoom on past. It's the best. And if you work in the Quarter, biking is just so much easier than driving. Parking a car in a decent spot in the French Quarter everyday? No.
My co-worker was an avid cyclist too. He knew his stuff. He took precautions that I never bothered with and he was careful. Yet someone was still able to mow him down.
And now? I'm looking into getting a scooter. I'll most likely get back on my bike again, after I finally get one of those cool helmets. But I'm still going to look at scooter prices – though I realize they are dangerous, too.
So in closing I just want to say thank you to my coworker. Thank you, Eddie Ray, for everything you taught me. Thanks for showing me that bad days always end, and a clean slate always begins tomorrow. Thanks for showing us in the kitchen your serious love of food and the love of your craft. For always being so willing to help someone out. You will be missed so much. And I will strive to perfect my knife-work to honor you, because you were the best.
A special shout-out, of course, goes to Stolen Bikes NOLA for organizing the ghost bike. Thank you so much for all that you do.
And to the year 2016? One of the shittiest years so far, in my lifetime anyway. We've got seven weeks left of you. I daresay we should cover everything left in bubble wrap until you're done.