Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Austin's ghost bikes are disappearing. Volunteers say the city is likely to blame.

A white bike locked to a metal post outside in front of a store.
Patricia Lim
KUT News
Ghost bikes, like this one placed on North Lamar Boulevard near 12th Street last April in memory of cyclist Roger Crain, have been disappearing without explanation.

The Bicycle Advisory Council is calling on the city to protect ghost bike installations after a cycling safety group reported four bikes they put up in the last few months were removed.

Volunteers with the Austin Ghost Bike Project (AGBP) have placed at least 10 ghost bikes — painted white and attached to a nearby sign or post — at locations where bicyclists have been killed by motorists to memorialize them and remind motorists to drive safely. But in recent months, a few of the ghost bikes have been removed with no explanation given, though members believe the removals are likely from maintenance and construction crews.

“We are constantly looking for ways to remind people of the toll of traffic violence, and I don’t think there is a more poignant reminder that we have than ghost bikes,” said Spencer Schumacher, who chairs the council. “And so the fact that people are volunteering their time, money and effort to put these out is something we should really respect and something we should protect as much as we can.”

The recommendation, which the council unanimously passed at its meeting last Tuesday, says the ghost bikes usually have contact information so bike placers can be notified if a bike has to be temporarily removed. The recommendation says the Transportation and Public Works Department should use AGBP’s ghost bike map to inform construction crews if a ghost bike is at a construction site.

The recommendation additionally encourages city departments to work with AGBP and other advocacy groups to increase awareness of ghost bikes.

“This recommendation asks for TPW, Austin Energy and any other city department just to try to make a good faith effort to reach out when a bicycle needs to be temporarily removed for maintenance or for construction,” Schumacher said.

There’s no evidence the bikes were removed with malicious intent, the recommendation says. Schumacher said the bikes were likely removed by maintenance and construction crews who were unaware of why the bikes were there. He said TPW is aware of the issue but it doesn't believe any of its crews have removed ghost bikes.

“We’re looking for any additional arrows in our quiver to lean on to help us preserve and install these ghost bikes without running into any issues with Transportation, Public Works, any other organization with the city as best as we can,” said Jason Abels, a volunteer with the Austin Ghost Bike Project.

Schumacher said City Council Member Zo Qadri’s office has also reached out to city departments to see why the bikes were removed. Schumacher added that he has contacted the University of Texas and said the university has previously removed two ghost bikes.

Traffic crashes in 2024 have killed one bicyclist and seriously injured 17, according to Vision Zero data. Since 2020, 15 bicyclists have died and 117 have suffered serious injuries from crashes in Austin.

The advisory council will next meet at 6 p.m. July 16 in room 1029 of City Hall.

This story was originally published in The Austin Monitor.

Related Content