The New York City Street Memorial Project today conducted its 4th Annual Memorial Ride and Walk, visiting locations where pedestrian and cyclists have been killed by motor vehicles. The sites of cyclist deaths are marked by ghost bikes — those blanched-white memorials to cyclists killed in transit that you see chained to posts and fences near the scenes of the accidents.
We attended the last stop at Delancey and Bowery, where a ghost bike memorializes 31-year-old Rasha Shamoon of Greenpoint, who was struck by a SUV on August 5, 2008. She was removed from life support at New York Presbyterian Hospital a few days later.
About 80 participants including several members of Rasha’s family and her partner, Josue Cedeno, were on hand to honor her memory and to “raise awareness,” as a spokesman told the crowd, “about a bicyclist’s right to the street and a pedestrian’s right to safe passage.”
Rasha’s sisters Saba and Suhair were down from Massachusetts for the tribute. Saba first became aware of the tenacious bonds of the local bike community when Rasha was in the hospital. “We were very happy and surprised at the same time” to see many members of Time’s Up and Transportation Alternatives — bike activist groups to which Rasha belonged — turn up at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Rasha’s final days to show support, she told us.
Suhair hopes that the memorials will “change police protocol” in bike accidents, she said. “Nine out of ten times they assume it’s the fault of the rider. And that’s not how it is… they should talk to other people in the area if they’re willing to give a statement, and take more caution at the scene and not just move things just because traffic gets backed up,” as they did in her sister’s case, which she feels adversely affected the investigation.
She would also “love to see every NYPD [officer] go through training on a bike… being aware [of traffic] as a bicyclist and not just as a driver.” She’s pleased to see the new median on Delancey that she expects is helpful to both cyclists and pedestrians.
“It was really hard to get answers” about the accident, said Saba’s husband Jeff. He said that, in the reports the family saw, the police only took statements from the driver and two of his friends, and there were “no consequences” to the driver as a result of the investigation.
Rasha’s ghost bike was garlanded with flowers and her memory honored with a silent bike lift by the participants.