The city has a policy about citizen placed memorials within the right of way: you can put them up, but if there’s a complaint – a single complaint – they’ll be forcibly removed 45 days thereafter.
One Durham man has decided to use this process to eliminate every ghost bike from Durham (ghost bikes are bicycles painted white placed at the sites where cyclists were killed in traffic; they serve both as memorials and as reminders that some roads can be especially dangerous for cyclists).
Here’s a conversation this man had with a city official:
Good morning [redacted],People have been asking me about the removal of thisghost bikes through out the City. Are we suppose to email you thelocation, contact Durham one call, or have your staff been educatedabout the ordinance and will remove the ghost bikes?I have been inform of two locations that the bikeshave been located there for a long time.1. Hillandale Ave before crossing the over pass for 852. Chapel Hill and W. Chapel Hill meets.Thanks[redacted]
These two locations mark the spots where Seth Vidal and Kent Winberry were killed, respectively.
I’m not going to name [redacted], but I think it’s important to highlight that any single person has the power to remove every right-of-way memorial in the city. I think that’s problematic, and so do the partners of the slain cyclists in question.
I don’t know if there’s an ideal fix for this policy. The irony is that (to my recollection) the policy was instated after the city’s removal of Jesus Huerta’s memorial, and it was intended to prevent the premature removal of such displays. I think the intent is sound, but the barrier for removal – one citizen’s email to the city – seems very low to me.
There appears to be an interesting loophole here: the person who placed the bikes can remove them before the time period expires. After that 45 days, they can place a different bike in the same spot, and it seems like this would be considered a new memorial. At that point [redacted] can make his complaint again, but there will be yet another another 45 days grace period within which the new memorial can survive.
EDIT: there’s now a petition at change.org calling for the city to reevaluate this policy.