Remembering the fallen - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

Remembering the fallen

Ghost bike honors a lost cyclist, reminds motorists of need for safety

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Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 11:00 pm

Grant Davis is gone, but not forgotten.

Grant was an accomplished pianist, an aspiring cyclist, and a 3.97 GPA honor roll student at Mountain View High School honor roll who was on the verge of becoming an Eagle Scout.

Three years ago, on June 29, 2006, Grant lost his life in a bicycling accident on the east side of Oracle Road, just north of Rancho Vistoso Boulevard.

Three months ago, a "ghost bike" memorial was set up at the site where the tragedy occurred. Ghost bikes are bicycles painted completely white and set on the side of the road, at the accident site, as memorials to bicyclists who have died.

Grant's name and the date of his death are are painted in colored letters on a plaque welded to the bike. To prevent the bikes from being stolen, they are usually chained to a pole or tree, or in the case of Grant's bike, a portion of the back wheel is encased in concrete, which is then buried in the ground.

Ghost bikes began in 2003 in St. Louis, according to the website It is now a worldwide phenomenon. The site posts the locations of ghost bikes in cities throughout the world. With the addition of Grant Davis, greater Tucson now has seven ghost bike sites.

Whoever made and set up the ghost bike for Grant wishes to remain anonymous, according to Dr. Stuart Davis, his father, an orthopedic surgeon who practices in Billings, Mont. The entire Davis family now lives in Billings. They have been down to Tucson to see the bike, and held a memorial service.

"Grant was a gifted young man and one of the best people I have ever known," his father said.

Erik Ryberg is an active member of Tucson's cycling community; he commutes to work daily on a bike. Ryberg is also an attorney who represents bicyclists in personal injury cases and other bike-related issues. He confirms that the individual who created and placed the ghost bike for Grant Davis wishes to remain anonymous. That person has now done three ghost bikes in the Tucson area, according to Ryberg.

In an e-mail Ryberg received from the benefactor and forwarded, the donor says "Doing ghost bikes is just a small way I can help give back to my riding buddies. The ghost bike tradition is best kept silent. For me, I know the families are very grateful, the community is talking about them, and I am quietly proud of what I have done."

Ryberg maintains a local bicycling blog at"> On it is a ghostbikes category where you can find Tucson ghost bike locations, personal histories of the cyclists killed, and updates on vandalism and removal.

Why do people make ghost bikes?

"Most of the people who do it are cyclists; I've helped with a couple myself," replies Ryberg. "BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Action and Salvage) will give you a bike for free. First, we took the bike to a car wash to degrease it. Then, we welded the plaque and some of the parts to prevent them from being stolen. We then painted the bikes white and sealed the back wheel in concrete. Ghost bikes remind motorists to be careful — many Tucson bicyclists have died."

The first ghost bike in Tucson was created by Ali Shapiro, the owner of Xoom Juice, who placed a ghost bike on Broadway and Vozack to memorialize 14-year-old Jose Rincon.

"They are a subtle, artful and poignant reminder of the perils of cycling among cars," said Shapiro. "A ghost bike is a personal memorial as well. Few urban projects can claim this."

Jean Gorman is in the process of creating a ghost bike for her son Brad Gorman, a 41-year-old real estate agent who was killed on the Catalina Highway. The needless death of her son almost 10 years ago spurred her to take action. She became the driving force behind the "Ride of Silence" an annual event that honors anyone who has been injured and killed by an automobile while riding a bike, according to Gorman.

"The purpose of the Ride of Silence is to make people aware that bicyclists have a right to the road. This year we had over 275 bicyclists who rode for 12 miles at 12 miles per hour in absolute silence," she said.

Gorman has also served as the mayor's representative on the Tucson and Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee. She was instrumental in getting the portion of Catalina Highway from Tanque Verde Road to the base of Mount Lemmon designated as the Brad P. Gorman Memorial Bikeway. The Gorman Bikeway has 6-foot bike lanes for biking safety.

Jean Gorman is also helping with the final stages in establishing a memorial park near the base of Mount Lemmon so bicyclists who plan to ride up the mountain will have a safe, out-of-the-way place to park their vehicles.

Jean has a bike that she received from BICAS, and plans to place a ghost bike at the site where her son was killed.

"Ghost bikes show respect," she said. "They make other people aware of the cyclists on the road. It is a way to honor my son and all bicyclists who have been killed."

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