Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 2.19.09

The Ghost Bike
David Minor’s family responds
by John and Susan Minor

We are David Minor’s parents, and we are responding to the letter signed “David Minor’s Ghost” [quoted from in Slant, 1/15]. We are writing for three reasons. One is to comment on the inappropriateness and insensitivity of the person who wrote in as if he were David, another is to address the writer’s comments about the ghost bike corner, and finally, to set the record straight about whether a bike helmet would have saved David’s life.

 First, we don’t know the guidelines of the editorial staff in determining what letters are printed, but we would like to suggest that they consider the impact of such a letter on the family and friends of someone who has so recently died. Certainly, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but we believe opinions should be expressed in a respectful manner. We have always felt that people who chose not to sign their names to letters were cowardly, and signing as someone’s ghost goes far beyond that.  As parents having lost their son, this was painful for us to read. 

David Minor memorial on 13th Ave. and Willamette.

Since the letter was about removing the ghost bike from the corner of 13th. and Willamette, we would also like to comment on that, again from personal experience. We visit that corner on a regular basis, and absolutely every time we are there, people come up to us and thank us for tending the flowers, comment on how meaningful the ghost bike is to them or tell us how seeing the bike has made them drive or bike more carefully. We receive these same comments away from the corner as well. 

 Representatives of the city have told us that as long as it is not an obstruction, the bike can remain in place. We have periodically asked employees at Kinko’s if it is bothering them, and have always been told it does not. In fact, we have been at the bike corner when Kinko’s employees have come out to talk to us, sharing that they also appreciate its presence. Ghost Bikes are an international phenomenon. The first ones were created in St. Louis in 2003, and they have since appeared in nearly 75 cities throughout the world. Their impact is strong, their message clear to all motorists and cyclists: ride safe, follow the rules and share the road ( Google has more than 30 pages of ghost bike images.

If we are asked by the city or by Kinko’s to remove the ghost bike, it will not be a problem. We don’t feel that David’s spirit resides there. He is everywhere, especially in our hearts, and we will carry him there forever.

 Finally, while the issue of bike helmets, specifically related to David, has not been mentioned in EW in a while, it continues to come up in other publications. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify a misconception that has been widely printed and covered in all the media, which is that a bike helmet would have saved David’s life. We have been told by the neurosurgeon who examined David in the emergency room that a helmet would not have made a difference due to the severity of his injuries. 

We support the use of bike helmets and wish he had worn one every time he rode his bike, but implying that it would have saved his life is not only inaccurate, it is painful for us to continue to read about our son in this way. He was so much more than “the young man who didn’t wear his helmet.” He was a passionate believer in the environment, sustainability and social justice, and we feel it is much more appropriate that he be remembered for these things.

We wouldn’t want anyone to think that wearing a bicycle helmet protects you from everything. Riding a bike while wearing a helmet still requires you to follow the rules of the road and to be aware of everything around you. Again, we definitely support the use of bike helmets and the concept of all motorists, cyclists and pedestrians following the rules, being mindful of each other and sharing the road. We would also like to see safer bike lanes for cyclists and even bike boulevards where cyclists are mostly separated from motorists and pedestrians. Where helmets and helmet laws are concerned, however, we respectfully ask that everyone please leave David’s name out of the discussion.

  John and Susan Minor are Eugene residents.