My latest article just went up at Urban Indy. It’s a familiar subject to those who know this blog well: another ghost bike, this time in the largely suburban, automobile dependent streets of the south side of Indianapolis. Unlike my very recent article on a ghost bike in Albuquerque, this one almost certainly signifies a fatality caused by a vehicle. It’s actually right up against a major arterial, and though that arterial has painted bike lanes, a car traveling 40 mph (as most are on Madison Avenue) could easily stray just a few inches outside of its dedicated space, into that bike lane. And a bicyclist going 12-15 mph would be no match. That’s probably what we’re witnessing here.
But there’s more than meets the eye. The name of the deceased drapes the frame of the bike, and that name speaks more powerfully of a certain demographic subset in Indianapolis–a demographic subset likely to face considerably lower incomes and a greater dependency on bikes. To be fair, the road conditions on this stretch of Madison Avenue aren’t too bad for bikes or pedestrians: it does have sidewalks, the painted lanes are consistent, and key goods and services are within walking distance of this location. But this is merely pretty good for Indy–by most urban metrics, the infrastructure on Madison Avenue is mediocre. However, buried deep within the iconography of this ghost bike is a narrative that could easily form a powerful argument for complete streets: for superlative bicycle/pedestrian provisions, more frequent crosswalks, slower vehicular speeds, traffic calming devices–far better for this part of town than many other locations.
Read the full article, and feel free to comment here or at Urban Indy. As always, I welcome other people’s perspectives, on a subject that is likely to become more salient over time.
5 thoughts on “A new spin on the wheels of an old ghost bike, along Indy’s Madison Avenue.”
So much to say on this one. Something that is really telling is a google search brought no news of this death. Eric McAfee would you rather have comments here or on the Urban Indy article page?
No worries where you decide to write. I’ll respond either way. I consolidate social media comments onto the blog, so there’s a clear repository for all discourse.
As for the sparseness of info, you’re right. But I did find this: https://www.wishtv.com/news/cyclist-killed-on-south-side-is-indianas-6th-fatal-bike-crash-in-2019/?fbclid=IwAR3NCllaxok4QaAxuhMgGf9AUFP2DxtmazZNzZBEXnci0e_Nx8FUKZ4e2zU
The article omits the victim’s name but it correlates perfectly to the date and location. It’s also possible, given the difficulty with southeast Asian names, that the representation we see here on the ghost bike does not correlate to police or coroner records. I know that the Chin ethnicity (most common in Indy) uses the Roman lettering to communicate, but other Burmese cultures (including the majority ethnicity in Myanmar, also prevalent in South Indy) have their own orthography, which may receive a variety of spellings through various translations. Just a hunch.
I googled the name, and it is also the name of a prominent Burmese actor/director, a general, and several former government officials. I don’t know if that means it’s like “John Smith” or “Mike Brown” in Myanmar, or if the young person who died was named after a famous person.
What I did not find was an obituary in a local newspaper after adding “Indianapolis” to the search. Typically that’s a top result if one exists.
I did a pretty thorough search as well, Chris. A funeral service was held for a person with the same name, but about a year earlier and in St. Paul, MN (which also has a large southeast Asian population). Apparently the family of a deceased person can decide whether or not to list the death as an obituary. The only thing they cannot refuse is the filing of the death certificate. Given the anonymity of the WISH-TV article that I cited earlier, that may have been the intent of the family…which makes me feel a little guilty by making this article. Then again, someone create a ghost bike, so clearly there’s some interest in getting the word out.