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Durham’s ghost bikes could disappear 

Does it bother you that people have commemorated their loved ones by marking the spot near the road where they died? Us neither. The memorials are a sobering reminder of the dangers of traffic.

Well, someone was pissed, because he or she griped to the Durham General Services Department about two ghost bikes, claiming that they are eyesores. (Really? Has this person looked around lately?)

How white bicycles adorned with colorful flowers qualify as ugly, we're not sure, but the complaint has forced the city to remove them by July 20. (That is the law. It is a dumb law.) If no one claims the bikes after another 30 days, they'll be thrown away.

One bike at University Drive and Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard is where 33-year-old Joshua Johnson was killed in August 2013 when his scooter was struck by a car. Another memorializes Kent Winberry, 52, who died last October when a driver of a car turned left in front of him at Duke University Road and Chapel Hill Road.

The city didn't even have a memorials policy until last fall. That action was prompted by a memorial erected to Jesus Huerta in 2013. Friends and supporters of Huerta, who died in the back of a Durham police car of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while handcuffed (sounds legit), placed a memorial to him on DPD property, where he had died.

That sparked a discussion within the city about where and for how long memorials—altars, crosses and ghost bikes, for example—could be placed in the public right-of-way.

Last year, City Council approved the Memorials on City Property Policy, which allows markers to remain in these areas if they posed no safety hazards and if they did not "interfere with public use or enjoyment" of public property. In other words, until someone complains.

There is a third ghost bike in Durham, but we're not going to say where it is. The Roadside Attractiveness Squad might complain.

Reach the INDY's Triangulator team at triangulator@indyweek.com. Additional reporting by Billy Ball.

  • Complaint leads to removal of roadside memorials

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