Riderless bike serves as poignant memorial

A solitary white bicycle has appeared chained to a traffic post outside CSUS, the scene of an accident earlier this month which killed one of the university students. The bike, spray-painted a stark, ghostly white, was left anonymously leaning against the post on a traffic island immediately in front of the entrance to the university campus on J Street. Beside the bike, flowers and ribbons add color, while a photograph of the victim, Arlene Sasse, reminds pedestrians how risky the city’s streets are for cyclists.

Sasse was crossing J Street on her bike shortly before 2am on April 1st when she was hit. She died at the scene. The driver of the car claims she did not see Sasse, whose bike reportedly did not have lights or reflectors.

Arlene Sasse was due to to graduate from CSUS in May with a psychology degree. She had hoped the qualification would help her find work as an occupational psychologist. Before transferring to Sac State, she had previously attended American River and Sacramento City junior colleges.

The Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA) responded to the tragedy by issuing free bicycle lights to Sac State students, in an effort to encourage safer riding practices. Sacramento’s roads – already unfriendly and often deadly for cyclists in the daylight – can be lethal after dark. Though the city claims to be cycling-friendly, many major routes are effectively off-limits to bikes. Cars frequently abuse cyclists by parking illegally in designated cycle lanes or behaving aggressively towards law-abiding bicycle traffic.

“Ghost bikes” are a sad but common sight in metropolitan areas, appearing in more than 35 US states, and more than 20 countries worldwide. They almost always offer the same sombre, elegant memorial: a white bicycle beside a small photograph of the victim. Sacramento residents have noted at least half a dozen of the bikes, which are eventually removed by municipal workers.

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