This year a friend of mine had the idea of putting together a unique float for the Dia de Los Muertos parade in Albuquerque's South Valley. It was the 23rd annual parade, and the theme this year was "Silence is Death." My friend wanted to put together a memorial to those who have died in cycling accidents. There are ghost bikes all over Albuquerque to remember deceased cyclists. They are all white, and decorated with flowers. The empty seat always makes me think of other empty seats that the riders have left behind--empty seats at holiday tables, empty seats at work, empty seats beside their loved ones on car trips/vacations, at the movies. The empty seat means there are empty hearts out there.
My friend made flags for each local rider who has a ghost bike. On one side of the flag was a white bike, and on the other was their name. A teacher she knows in Florida had his students make marigolds for us to decorate our bikes with. Florida and New Mexico might be halfway across the country from one another, but they both share top billing when it comes to bicycle deaths in the U.S. So he sent along marigolds along with the names of people killed in Florida in cycling accidents so we could attach them to the flowers and remember them, too.
We took our spot behind the low riders and in front of a brass band. There were a good number of people on bikes, a handful of dedicated walkers handing out candy, and a couple of people holding a banner reading "Paseo de los Silenciados," or "Ride of the Silenced."
We rode for about a mile through some pretty thick crowds. We received applause and people telling us, "Thank you," and, "What a wonderful way to honor the dead." I heard people talking about the ghost bikes, and sometimes explaining what they were to others. One thing I noticed was that a lot of people rode their bikes to the parade. I like to think that we gave the parade-goers something to think about, which was reinforced when they saw people headed home on their bikes. I like to think those people will get into their cars in the morning to go to work or take their kids to school, or they'll climb behind the wheel of their work vehicle, and they'll remember us riding with the names of the dead, and an empty, white bike at the front. I like to think they'll give the proper space to commuters on bikes, or watch out for pedestrians crossing the road, because after all, people on bikes and on foot have as much a right to safe travel as people in cars. I like to think they'll notice the ghost bikes around town, and their gaze won't slide over them without noticing them because they've seen them so many times before. I like to think there won't be any need for more ghost bikes.