Bicyclists Memorialize Victim Of Collision

August 10, 2009|By Joe Burris and Richard Irwin | Joe Burris and Richard Irwin, and

A group of bicyclists gathered at a downtown intersection Sunday evening to dedicate a "ghost-bike" memorial to a 67-year-old cyclist killed last week in a collision with a truck.

At least 50 people observed a moment of silence to remember John R. "Jack" Yates, whose bike became tangled in the rear wheels of a truck at Maryland and West Lafayette avenues while on his way to the University of Baltimore nearby to drop off a document.

As a memorial to Yates, a tire-less bike painted white was chained and locked to a traffic pole at the site of the fatal accident. On the bike is a placard saying "RIP John R. Yates -- 8-4-09"

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Monday's editions incorrectly reported the time of last week's fatal collision involving a bicyclist and a truck in Baltimore. The collision occurred about 11:40 a.m. Tuesday.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

Those attending the service by bike hoisted their wheels over their heads in memory of Yates, who worked with the city's youth for many years.

The ghost bike memorial was set up by members of the Velocipede Bike Project, a nonprofit group that collects secondhand bikes and teaches people how to repair and build their own. Velocipede operates a bike shop on Lanvale Street near the scene of the crash. Rod Bruckdorfer, a bike shop volunteer, said the ghost bike set up Sunday in memory of Yates is the city's first. He said there are 80 such memorials worldwide.

Yates was southbound on Maryland Avenue, and the truck was turning right onto West Lafayette Avenue about 6 p.m. Tuesday when Yates, a bicyclist for many years, struck the truck's rear wheels; he was pronounced dead at the scene. The truck has not been located. Velocipede member Boson Au, of Mount Vernon said that Velocipede painted an old mountain bike white before donating it for the event.

Au said that though he did not know Yates, his death has touched many cyclists who have made Maryland Avenue a widely used thoroughfare -in part, he said, because it's safer than some of the adjacent streets.

"It goes up north to the heart of the Baltimore cycling community. I have friends who ride it all the time," said Au, a senior programming analyst at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"I feel like it's just really unfortunate, and it could have been preventable," Au added. "I didn't want people to forget about it. I still ride down the road every time, and I get a little knot in my stomach when I ride down there."

Cyclists' greatest fear is to "get caught in a right hook by a truck," Au said.

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