We often note how accidents on the roadway are the leading cause of serious traumatic brain injuries among all age groups. TBIs result from significant contact between the head and a hard object. Even seemingly low-speed or minor traffic accidents can produce TBIs because abrupt stops that occur in a traffic accident make it highly likely that the head will make hard contact with some surface.
Most focus on roadway accidents relates to car crashes, but all of the same principles apply to other travelers, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Bike riders in particular have made a few headlines recently as our area has grappled with some tragic Chicago bike accidents that robbed the lives of community members while raising awareness of the need to be vigilant about bicycle safety.
Chicago Bike Tributes
As part of that awareness effort, and to honor those cyclists who have been killed in roadway accidents, a “ghost rack” memorial has been proposed in Chicago. As reported in a recent Chicago Tribune piece, this would be an alternative to “ghost bikes” which are already common. The existing memorial refers to “ghost” bikes which are painted white and attached to certain locations in the city, usually the corners of intersections, to honor those lost in these accidents. On occasion these memorials serve as a gathering place for mourners or those wanting to pay tribute, often with flowers or other items left nearby.
Yet there remains concern about defacement or theft these ghost bikes. As an alternative to ghost bikes, some to work on these bike injury cases are proposing “ghost racks.” The racks would have the similarly white color, but they would have the benefit of being bolted to the sidewalk to avoid theft. In addition, they would serve both as a memorial as well as a functional tool for other cyclists to use.
All of this, of course, must be balanced with the wishes of the involved families. These memorials are powerfully emotional symbols, particularly because they are placed in the very location where the tragedy occurs. For some families the constant reminder is too much, a painful visual that makes their healing more difficult.
Accountability Following Chicago Bike Accidents
No matter what the specifics of the bike memorial, raising awareness of the need to be careful on city streets is something that all of us can get behind. As warm weather arrives in the city, our sidewalks, intersections, bike lanes, and other spaces will become more and more crowded. More residents are on their bikes, more visitors are moving through the city, and risks of deadly collisions rise substantially.
Even when an accident does not result in a death, serious injuries are quite common. Obviously the bicyclist is virtually always the travelers who is most injured, as they have none of the safeguards provided those in a car or truck. While helmet use is critical to help minimize the damage to the head during a collision, a helmet alone is not enough to prevent all head and brain injuries. The only surefire way to avoid harm is for all cyclists and car drivers to follows the rules of the road and share our streets and sidewalks.
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