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September 26, 2008 / davebirss

The new death meme: ghost bikes

I’m always fascinated by memes, how they start, how they spread and who adopts them. And this memorial meme really interested me. It’s a classic in several ways:

  • It’s simple to understand: it’s a memorial to a cyclist who was ‘killed in action’.
  • It’s easy to replicate: you just paint an old bike white and chain it to some street furniture close to the scene of the fatality.
  • It’s niche: it’s popular amongst militant cyclists sharing a similar mindset and values.
  • It has impact: it’s a poignant and emotional thing. It leaves every viewer with some kind of reaction.
  • It’s highly spreadable: you don’t have to actually see one for real – the website shows you an image of each ghostbike.

A few of them have been found in London – and I’m sure we’ll see more in the coming months. You can view a map of where they are on the ghostbike site and at ghostcycle.org.uk.

3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Graham / Sep 26 2008 10:56 am

    It makes me very sad when people strip them:

    Ghost Bike theft!

  2. davebirss / Sep 26 2008 11:28 am

    Man! That’s just sick.

    If I ever see a cyclist with one wheel painted white, I’ll be sure to poke my umbrella in their spokes.

  3. james / Sep 28 2008 7:15 pm

    What’s a bit freaky is the resemblance to the new TfL “You’re better off by bike” ad: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=K1nYWIfwm7k

    Talking of memes, have you read a book called Herd by Mark Earls? Talks about so-called cellotaphs (memorials of flowers taped to street furniture) in that amongst other stuff.

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