Spontaneous Shrines

"We who build shrines and construct public altars or parade with photographs of the deceased will not allow you to write off victims as regrettable statistics…They are, I believe, the voice of the people." –Jack Santino

Sunrise and sunset: the ghost bike for William Daniel Rodriguez

A little while ago, I was walking with some friends from Greenpoint to the Brooklyn Bridge.  About halfway through the walk we neared the Williamsburg Bridge.  The East River was to our right and a strong wind was blowing down Kent Avenue.  Chained to a signpost near a Jewish community center was a small, spray-painted white bike with flat tires.

I recognized it as a ghost bike, or a memorial bicycle placed at the site where a cyclist was killed, usually by another vehicle.  The first time I saw a ghost bike was in Amsterdam.  It was surrounded by flowers and stood out bright against the sea of bikes that continuously travel through the city.  This particular bike is quite small–it looks like it is meant for a child.

The writing on the post behind the bike reads:

William

Daniel

Rodriguez

Sunrise

10-17-88

Sunset

10-10-07

You will always

Be in our

Hearts

R.I.P.

Big Will

The writing on the bike itself reads:

William

D

Rodriguez

10-10-07

10:39 pm

Your welcome to take a balloon and let it go in his name.

The writing is done in black permanent marker.  The bike is adorned with blue  and white ribbons.  Above the bike, attached to the post is a set of large fake flower hearts, one white and one red.  In front of the tires are a set of four votive candles, one of which has a pair of cigarette lighters in it.  In front of the bike, there is an old, water-stained copy of the children’s book When Sheep Sleep, which has “for Danny” written on the cover.

From the writing, it appears that William Daniel Rodriguez, perhaps known as “Danny” died when he was 18 years old.  I’m guessing he may have been a smoker because of the cigarette lighters, but it is equally possible that the lighters have been left there for people to use for the votive candles.  Although I believe he was 18 when he died, the kid’s book and kid’s bike lead me to believe that his parents and other family members are the ones who set up the memorial.  He is remembered in his role as a child in a family, rather than as a friend or lover.

After returning home, I went onto the Ghost Bikes website to see if I could find out any additional information about this particular bike.  There is a page for William Rodriguez, but the information does not closely match the bike I saw.  The location is correct, but the date of death does not seem to be correct.  The page says: “A ghost bike appeared on Kent Avenue on October 8, 2009 to remember William Rodriguez, killed by the drunk driver of a truck in 2002.”  While it may be true that the bike appeared in 2009, the bike itself refers to William’s “sunset” as happening in 2007, not 2002.  The page also lists his age at death as 19 years old, whereas if the bike is correct, he would have died about a week before his 19th birthday.

This leaves me wondering if the information for the other bikes in New York City is correct. Of course, I can’t be sure whether the bike or the page is correct, but I’m inclined to trust the shrine itself.  Therefore, I’ve decided to do a bit of traveling.  I am going to visit each of the 80 ghost bikes listed for NYC (and any I pass along the way) and record the information I find on and around the bikes.  I’ll photograph the bikes as well.  I’m not sure what I’ll do once I’ve visited them all, but I feel like I should take a look at these memorials myself to see what I can learn about each individual.

The list can be found here.  To see a map of the bikes, look here.

Now– to the streets of New York I go in search of the white bikes…

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4 thoughts on “Sunrise and sunset: the ghost bike for William Daniel Rodriguez

  1. I am very much looking forward to seeing how this project of your’s will develop. I wouldn’t have even thought that such a website for ghostbikes existed, nor–thanks to your post– ever have known what a ghostbike even was for that matter. In any case, go, Shady, go! Thank you for bringing this otherwise taken for granted topic to light.

  2. Thanks very much for the encouragement! I’m also looking forward to participating in the 2012 Blessing of the Bikes, which will take place throughout the 5 boroughs sometime in the Spring.

  3. P. Sakala on said:

    Wow! What an ambitious project you have ahead of you. I am totally impressed. I too had never heard of Ghost bikes before. So interesting! And for you to plan on visiting every single one in NYC – well, Wow is all I can say. This is fantastic. Keep us posted on your progress.

  4. Thanks very much! I will definitely keep you posted 🙂

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