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Locals outraged at removal notice attached to tribute bicycle

The family and friends of a singer who was killed riding her bike in Hackney have been ordered to remove a 'ghost bike' that pays tribute to her life.

Hackney Council has attached a removal notice to the white-painted bike, which is decorated with flowers and photographs. A spokesperson said that members of the public had complained about it.

The notice read that the owners of the bicycle had seven days to unlock it from the railings near the spot where 28-year-old Shivon Watson was killed, on a roundabout as she cycled to work.

Ghost bikes serve as both a memorial to the dead rider, but also as a visual reminder to drivers of what the consequences of hitting a cyclist can be.

Although the seven day period has now expired, the council has not yet removed the ghost bike and has agreed to discuss the matter with the family before taking any further action.

There has been no improvement work at the roundabout since Shivon's death in March 2010. She was killed when a left-turning lorry trapped her against the railings.

Annette Darch, the mother of Shivon (also known by her stage name Shiv Lizzy) told the Evening Standard:  “We heard rumours that it might be taken away when we went up for the anniversary but everyone around there is happy for it to stay. Just one person complained apparently. They should not do it. And it would be nice to be consulted.”

Chris Peck of CTC, the national cycling charity, said: “It must be terrible for family and friends who want to preserve the memory of her and have that wiped out and taken away.

"The bikes serve to motivate people to campaign for better road safety and remind them of lives lost on the road. There should be a way of working with the family to have the ghost bike retained.”

Laura Woods, spokeswoman for road safety charity Brake, said: “Roadside memorials, such as a ghost bikes, provide a vital reminder for other drivers and for communities in which there have been deaths on the road and can be a comfort to families who have suffered a sudden and violent bereavement through a road crash.”

A Hackney council spokesman said: “In practice we only seek to remove temporary memorials where we have received complaints, as in this case, or where memorials are not maintained or pose a risk to safety.  Although the seven-day notice period has expired, we will not remove the memorial until we have discussed this with the family.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

9 comments

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andyp [1444 posts] 3 years ago
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' a visual reminder to drivers of what the consequences of hitting a cyclist can be.'

do most drivers even know what these bikes mean?

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badkneestom [135 posts] 3 years ago
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andyp, I'd assume most do. I think ghost bikes are a strong, silent message and one of the more powerful memorials out there. I'm not sure how your memorials laws work, but here crosses that are maintained can be up to 30yrs old.

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northstar [1108 posts] 3 years ago
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I see they seem to be going the way of tfl

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andyp [1444 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm not so sure. I bet quite a lot of cyclists (including me until this evening) have no idea what they're about, so why would drivers?

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Paul M [355 posts] 3 years ago
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andyp wrote:

I'm not so sure. I bet quite a lot of cyclists (including me until this evening) have no idea what they're about, so why would drivers?

With respect, AndyP, I do think that most cyclists and motorists who see collections of flower bouquets by the roadside can figure out what they are intended to say!

If Hackney is doing this on the basis of a single complaint, why not complain back, to object to the removal? Here's where http://hackney.gov.uk/w-complaints-form.htm

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A V Lowe [573 posts] 3 years ago
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Tony/Sarah

Suggest you rack back sensational headline and have a chat with Hackney Cyclists on this. Council officers took action without consulting appropriately, and issue is being dealt with.

As you note the notice is not being actioned, and a local solution is being sorted out, given the unfortunate way in which this was handled.

One option to consider is a simpler Memorial Plaque, of which a number have been erected (for pedestrians as well) when it becomes difficult to effectively maintain a ghost bike at the appropriate location.

I recall a memorial on the Bere Regis-Wareham road set up when 2 children died in a car crash in the 1930's - still tended in the 1960's, not sure if it is kept so well now.

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bfslxo [144 posts] 3 years ago
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Does it really only take one complaint to have those removed! - I think that is shocking  13

a life lost - remembered fondly by who know's how many who think about the girl when they travel past that spot, and probably by people who didn't even know her and it can be paste'd over by a single complaint!!

These symbol's serve a great purpose - yes they should be fully maintained/cleaned etc so they do not just end up looking like a piece of scrap but they should still be allowed to remain.

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trevorparsons [17 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm glad that the council now says that it will talk to the family, although of course that should have happened in the first place.

A complexity is that apparently the request for removal came from a local person who was at the scene of the collision three years ago and finds the powerful daily visual reminder of this traumatic event distressing.

I hope that a resolution can be achieved. As A V Lowe suggests, perhaps the family might agree to a Roadpeace 'Remember Me' plaque as a suitable replacement in due course.

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andyp [1444 posts] 3 years ago
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'With respect, AndyP, I do think that most cyclists and motorists who see collections of flower bouquets by the roadside can figure out what they are intended to say!'

I never suggested otherwise.