Two years ago almost at this time, a woman tragically was killed by a hit and run driver. He was never caught. Her mistake was having her bike trailer break down in the middle of the night and trying to fix it in the bike lane. She was a woman named Merry Daye who lived on the streets of Austin, Texas. Thousands of others still are without housing, thanks to the unaffordable rent and other reasons that cause this situation for so many worldwide. After her death, I organized a ghost bike and memorial ride. Her family came and spoke, and the TV news covered it. Recently, someone liberated the bike from the tree by the church. I live nearby and noticed. So this bike is back in the story of my bicycle journey, and with it, Merry.
When I saw the bike was missing, I stopped to look. Quickly I found it semi-hidden in an alcove of the church. I could speculate why but the good news is that I discovered this on a Wednesday night, when the ordinarily vacant church was having mid-week services and classes. I explained the situation and that I was a neighbor, and the good folks took in the bike and agreed to stash it. Some time passed and the original procurers of the bicycle were not able to help out again. So I notified a friend from the bike community I met a few years ago. I remembered that she had worked with ghost bikes in Houston, so would have expertise I didn’t. Lauren was — to the extent one can be about a memorial — “happy” to help.
I had retrieved the bike from the church and also a chain and padlock from Yellow Bike Project, where coordinator was generous enough to help. I promptly misplaced the lock, but found an old U-lock and realized I had a thicker section of chain doubling as a clothesline that I could donate. Lauren procured some metal-locking goop and a can of spray paint and was able to come by to work on the bike.
The main issue was that it was not prepared properly, which made it attractive enough to steal. She explained that you want as many moving parts to be removed as possible while making sure it still looks like a bicycle. So that’s what we commenced to do with the rusty old broken down bike. You can see in the photos that there were sure a lot of parts on the bike!
It took quite a bit of arm and hand strength, working with pliers, wire cutters, and more to remove the brakes, cables, and many screws and fittings. The chain was rusted but eventually broke loose. I removed the handlebar end cap and was rewarded with a whole ant farm living in the dark goop. That was a little gross. (Some ants were unfortunately injured in the making of this blog post. Normally ants are very resilient and never get sick, because of their little but very strong anty-bodies.)
Anyway, after removing almost everything except the pedals and derailleurs (too much work without the right tools), Lauren applied a metal locking substance to freeze some parts. Unfortunately that didn’t work so we may have to try that again. I’ll probably go ahead and give it a few coats of white spray paint.
The next step will be to get the information sheet and photo with Merry’s smiling face and laminate that. Along with another sign to denote that it’s a memorial (that people should please not f#*$ with!), we can then relock it to the tree by church at the site of her passing. It’s doubtful we can arrange for another memorial ride and bring the family together and get news coverage, but if we can get more help, we might try.
It’s a somber honor to do this work, although it’s not for only altruistic reasons. If I perished from getting murdered by a car crashing into me while riding my bicycle, I would hope someone would do the same for me. It’s possible Lauren and I may do more on this project for other past and future ghost bikes. I’ll post Part 2, soon.
Please be kind to bicyclists. Rest In Power, Merry.
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