Two deaths in the family

Portland bonds together over fallen cyclists

The news that a memorial to a Portland cyclist killed by a garbage truck has been painted over has left me fuming.

Brett Jarolimek, 31, was crushed to death by the heavy vehicle as it turned through a bike lane in front of him late October.

The driver was not ticketed or arrested and police said that Mr Jarolimek might have been going "at speed". Which sounds like an implication that it was his own fault...

Ten days earlier a 19-year-old student, Tracey Sparling, was killed when a cement truck turned into her at a Portland junction.

Cyclists are all too often killed by big vehicles which turn into them after the driver fails to spot them. Drivers walk away with a small fine and perhaps a ban at the most. In both these cases no action was taken.

While a prison sentence won't bring back a loved one, putting the fear of jail into the hearts of heavy goods drivers might cause them to look in their mirror a little more often.

Mr Jarolimek, a talented artist and musician, was commemorated at the scene of his death by a beautifully decorated ghost bike, and a stencil of him in full-on cyclocross mode.

But the authorities in Portland, Oregon have seen fit to paint it over.

Doesn't this young man, cut down in his prime, deserve a little more than that?

Ghost bike memorials are utterly harmless, and in fact do some good, in warning other cyclists of their vulnerability and drawing attention to danger spots.

More importantly, they show respect and love for an individual, who almost certainly won't receive any justice after their death.

This removal of Brett Jarolimek's stencil isn't simply about council staff sticking to the rules. It's about the desire of society to whitewash over the issue of cyclists' deaths and it's just not good enough.

After Brett Jarolimek died 100 friends and fellow cyclists rode a 22-mile route and stopped to pay their tributes at the spot where he was killed, before a service was held in his memory.

Mr Jarolimek worked at a cycling shop, the Bike Gallery. The shop has set up a fund in his memory which will help pay for cycling safety initiatives in Portland. All donations are gratefully received and the shop has pledged to match fund contributions up to a total of US$10,000 for the first year.

BikePortland.org covers the local cycling scene and kindly gave us permission to use their photo of Mr Jarolimek's memorial.

© BikeRadar 2007

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