Over the past several years, multiple donated bikes, painted white and either chained to something or cemented into the ground, have propped up across Tempe.
Each represents a bicyclist who has had a very severe injury from a traffic accident while cycling or was killed at the location, said Ken Wang, Tempe Bicycle Action Group secretary and senior studying computer science.
Tempe Bicycle Action Group is a nonprofit organization that pushes for better infrastructure for cyclists, whether it’s with the city of Tempe, the Maricopa Association of Governments or through policy outreach with other city planners and elected officials, according to Steven Gerner, T.B.A.G. vice president.
The ghost bikes, as members call them, serve as both a memorial for cyclists killed while riding their bikes and to spread awareness to the surrounding community that there is a problem of cyclists dying in collisions with automobiles, said Kristian Doak, a former member of T.B.A.G.
The most recent fatal accident involving a cyclist was on Aug. 25 in a hit-and-run near East University Drive and South Perry Lane. T.B.A.G. put up a ghost bike in that location for the cyclist that was killed.
“We actually don’t know anything about it, which is actually really scary to us,” Wang said.
Doak said he has personally put up five or six ghost bikes in the last few years.
“Every year we do a ride of silence and visit places where cyclists have been killed in an accident,” Gerner said.
One of the most common safety problems that Wang has noticed is students riding without proper equipment on their bicycles.
“I see a lot of ASU cyclists biking without lights,” Wang said. “It’s actually illegal to bike at night without lights, you have to have at least a white front light and a rear red reflector.”
T.B.A.G. has organized rides through the Tempe campus, where they give out free bike lights and flyers with bike safety information, Wang said.
T.B.A.G. wants the University to make it clear to students that they are not pedestrians anymore once they are riding a bike.
Biking on campus
The University recommends students use bike lanes to avoid interfering with foot traffic, even though cyclists are legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk in Tempe, said Adam Wolfe, an ASU Police Department spokesperson, in an email on Sept. 22.
“Bicycles need to follow all road signs, traffic signals and rules of the road,” Wolfe said.
Cyclists are held to the same standards as any other vehicles on the roads, even though it is often misunderstood that they can follow laws for pedestrians, Wolfe said.
“The government views them more as a car after they are on a bike, so they have to follow pretty much all of the same rules as a car, with a few exceptions here and there,” Wang said.
Wang said the University could do a better job at offering resources to student cyclists like distributing free bike lights.
“Your life is not worth $10 on a bike light,” Wang said.
Frankie Perry, a freshman studying urban planning, bikes on the Tempe campus and in the surrounding Tempe area.
“I don’t think it’s safe,” Perry said in a text message. “I’ve had many close calls involving drivers not paying attention, cutting me off, things like that as I’m riding in the bike lane on University Drive.”
Perry believes some sort of physical separation between the bike and car lanes would be ideal.
“I don’t think there is much that people who bike can do to be safe when the place they are biking in is already dangerous,” Perry said.
T.B.A.G. works to try and make the area less dangerous, and it has seen some transportation improvements with Vision Zero, a Tempe traffic safety policy trying to reduce the number of fatal crashes to zero, Gerner said.
The group collects data and does an annual bike count to give to the city so they can better come up with policies to help improve bike safety, Gerner said.
“We go out and count how many cyclists are going through intersections,” Gerner said.
TBAG looks at everything from the cyclists’ appearance to the direction they are riding in.
Encouraging people just to ride in the right direction is a job, said Jeff Caslake, T.B.A.G. treasurer.
“I want ASU students to see that this is a really serious issue,” Wang said.
Edited by Jasmine Kabiri, Logan Stanley, Wyatt Myskow and Grace Copperthite.
Alyssa BickleCommunity Reporter
Alyssa Bickle is a staff reporter, writing for the community and culture desk. She is a writing tutor for University Academic Success Programs, and a fellow in the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. She is pursuing bachelors degrees in journalism and political science.