In the Pipeline: ‘Ghost bikes’ mark earthly tragedies
It started in 2003, in St. Louis, after a man named Patrick Van Der Tuin saw a bicyclist fatally struck by a car.
At the accident site, Van Der Tuin placed a bicycle painted white and a hand-painted sign that read “Cyclist Struck Here.”
The tribute deeply affected many passersby, and so Van Der Tuin, along with several friends, placed 15 more white bicycles around St. Louis where cyclists had recently been struck by cars.
Thus was born the concept of the “ghost bike.” Over the course of the next several years, similar efforts took place in various U.S. cities and in other countries.
These haunting memorials recently found their way to Huntington Beach. In February, a ghost bike was placed near Edwards Street and Ellis Avenue after 37-year-old Matthew Liechty was struck by a hit-and-run driver. His was the sixth cycling death in Huntington Beach since 2011, half of them alleged hit-and-runs.
The Huntington Beach Police Department arrested 29-year-old Antonio Magdaleno Jr. shortly after the accident on suspicion of driving under the influence and felony hit-and-run leading to death.
But there is a new ghost bike in Huntington Beach, at Utica Avenue and Beach Boulevard, where 34-year-old city resident Genevieve Hall was killed two weeks ago by yet another hit-and-run driver. As of this writing, the driver remains at large.
Several mornings ago I visited the memorial. The candles, cards and flowers were all heavy with mist from the thick, gray marine layer. And the white bicycle stood out as an increasingly poignant, yet sickening, reminder of the tragedy. Hall left a young son and many friends and family members.
I spoke with Hall’s brother, Mike, who lives in Stanton.
“It’s hard to put into words what this has done to my nephew,” he told me. “Obviously, at just 10 years old, it’s going to take a long time for him to process this. Who knows if he ever really will? And it’s hard to describe what this has done to our mom.
“She and Genevieve spoke every day. They were as close as you could be. We are all just devastated. But for her son and my mom it’s extra hard.”
Hall also explained that there have been no hard leads in the case except that police are searching for a white Chevy Impala. By now, of course, it may have been repainted and repaired.
But still, it’s hard to imagine that nobody besides the driver knows what happened. To me, hit-and-run accidents are among the most insidious crimes imaginable.
To know that you have caused great bodily harm to someone, and yet to leave them there to die, is unspeakable. Hopefully, the ghoulish coward will soon be apprehended.
Until then, we are left to look at the ghost bike and remember this woman, and others like her, who have been left along roadsides while the culprits speed away.
The Hall family will hold a memorial service for Genevieve at 11 a.m. April 26 on the outdoor stage at the Huntington Beach Central Library.
“My sister just loved Huntington Beach, and we do too,” Mike Hall said. “The citizens who have reached out to us have been wonderful after this horrible event, and so we want to pay tribute to Genevieve and also invite anybody who would like to attend.”
A fund has been set up for Genevieve Hall’s son. To make a donation, visit https://www.gofundme.com/876b5w.
I’m not sure who places these compelling memorial structures, but I’m glad it is being done. As I’ve written before, I hope that some day small, permanent tributes will mark all of the accident sites.
Tragic as they may be, they are still part of our history. And all of these victims deserve to be remembered.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new “Baseball in Orange County,” from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at https://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.
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