A Question of Descansos
By Patrick Lohmann
The city and state have gone back and forth on whether they will allow ghost bikes to stand. Jennifer Buntz, president of the Duke City Wheelmen Foundation, champions the memorials for cyclists killed by motorists around the state.
Twice the city removed a ghost bike on Comanche near Vassar that honored cyclist Roy Sekreta, who was killed in 2008. Buntz also received a letter in mid-May from a New Mexico Department of Transportation traffic engineer informing her that a ghost bike in Silver City would soon be taken down because it’s a safety hazard.
“It isn’t more of a danger than all of the signs put up on the highway,” Buntz said during an interview on Aug. 13. “I’m not going to put one up that for sure violates the law to get them to take one down, but I’m going to continue putting them up. There’s one in the garage that’s painted and ready to go.”
Both the Sekreta bike and the one in Silver City no longer seem to be in danger, but she says the city and the Transportation Department simply don’t understand why ghost bikes are important.
“They don’t understand that it’s a descanso. If they could just think of it as a descanso, all the questions would be answered.”
“We’ll be meeting with them in the near future, and hopefully we can work something out.”
Mark Motsko, the city’s Municipal Development Department spokesperson
According to documents obtained through a public records request, Municipal Development Department spokesperson Mark Motsko said in a March 3 e-mail that Director Michael Riordan was going to suggest installing memorial plaques in place of ghost bikes. The bikes present safety concerns, according to the e-mail, such as line-of-sight and maintenance issues.
“I don’t think Ms. Buntz is going to be receptive to this idea,” Motsko said in the e-mail, “but it shows we are trying to work with them on the idea of a memorial.”
In an interview Aug. 19, Motsko said the city is still trying to create guidelines and gathering input from Buntz and other ghost bike advocates.
“After our recent discussions this year with the ghost bike representatives, the staff had come up with a draft agreement,” Motsko says. “We’ll be meeting with them in the near future, and hopefully we can work something out.”
As of Sept. 5, Buntz says she hadn’t heard of any draft agreement for ghost bike guidelines or heard from city representatives regarding drafting some.
Ultimately, though, Buntz says since the bikes are for the most part staying up— excluding the memorial on Laguna Pueblo for John Anczarski—she’s not going to force the issue.
Even if the city doesn’t consider the bikes descansos, she adds, it’s still treating them as if they are. “True, city officials did not work with me as they said they would nor have not offered any reason,” she said in an e-mail. “However, the ghost bikes are staying put. That was what I wanted when I started this process last December. As long as the city continues to treat ghost bikes like the descansos that they are, then I don't have a problem with the situation.”
Be sure to read this week’s news story, “The Ghost Bike in Laguna.”
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