No matter how often I pass it, the sight of the Ghost Bike rattles me. Perhaps it is the location. I am accustomed to seeing these monuments to fallen cyclists in cities. But this one is jarringly out of place on a rural coastal road. In this unexpected environment, the ghost bike is more noticeable, more striking. Isolated and uncamouflaged by urban clutter, it refuses to blend with its surroundings; it is unignorable.
As the eye wanders from the bike to the sharp bend in the road, the imagination engages, activating a sequence of horrible stills. How did it happen? Who did it happen to? The plaque attached to the top tube names Gareth, aged 16. I know that I can ask around and learn the whole story in great, terrible detail. But I don't. Once I pedal past the bike and turn into the shaded backroad, I try to put it out of my mind. Because when I ride to the beach on a beautiful summer day, I do not want to think about ghost bikes.
I try to shake these thoughts off, so at odds they are with this beautiful summer day. But as I pass the ghost bike on my return, I stop and something compels me to sit on the grass beside it. I look again at the bend in the road, and I read the plaque, and I take it all in without trying to push the imagery away, as I run my fingers through the buttercups and the Queen Anne's lace that flourish around the scuffed white tires. The bike will be here every time I ride to the beach. Perhaps I'll grow immune to it over time. Or perhaps not, and every time I see it my mood will darken and these thoughts will haunt me. And maybe that is as it should be. I just hope the motorists driving past feel a least a trace of the same reaction.