'Ghost bike' memorializes Philadelphia cyclist struck by trash truck
Emily Fredericks, a Center City pastry chef, was critically injured while commuting to work on Nov. 29, right-hooked by a private trash truck. She died at the scene.
A "ghost bike" was chained to a traffic light at 11th and Spruce Streets Saturday to mark the site of the tragedy that took the life of a vivacious young cyclist.
Emily Fredricks, 24, a Center City executive pastry chef, was critically injured while commuting to work on Nov. 29. She was riding in the bike lane when a private trash truck also traveling westbound on Spruce turned right onto 11th Street, striking her, according to police. Fredricks died at the scene.
In a persistent, cold rain Saturday, nearly 60 people gathered at that corner to memorialize Fredricks and to draw attention to the more than two dozen bicyclists who have died on Philadelphia streets since 2010. Several of the mourners openly wept.
"We don't want Emily to disappear, to be forgotten about," said her father, Richard Fredricks, of East Brunswick, N.J. "This dedication is just the beginning."
The ghost bike, a former junker freshly spray-painted in a skeletal white, was garlanded with a string of flashing Christmas lights. Vases of fuschia and white chrysanthemums, lilies, and a single red rose stood at the phantom bicycle's crankshaft. A bouquet of vibrant pink and white blossoms was tied to the handlebar stem. Photographs of Fredricks, along with a black helmet, were attached to the support pole of the traffic light.
The bicycle was donated by Neighborhood Bike Works of West Philadelphia, said Randy LoBasso, a spokesman for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, which is agitating for protected bike lanes in the wake of Fredricks' death.
"Hopefully, the ghost bike will be here as long as the traffic light is here," said LoBasso. "It's important for people who drive by this corner to know and be reminded."
Though the total number of people who commute by bicycle citywide is relatively small, in Center City about 7 percent use the two-wheelers to travel to work, LoBasso said. In South Philadelphia, an estimated 20 percent commute by bike. Drivers distracted by their smartphones have caused the rate of accidents involving bikes to rise throughout the nation, he said.
The ghost bike phenomenon is traced to St. Louis in 2003 as a tribute to a female cyclist who was struck and seriously injured by a car. Since then, more than 630 of the stark memorials have been established throughout the world.
They're often removed after a few weeks. But some remain in silent tribute for longer periods. LoBasso said a ghost bike has stood for four years at Second Street and Girard Avenue in Northern Liberties, where it memorializes the 2014 death of Johnny Brenda's cook Tony Aparecio. Another ghost bike is chained at 19th Street and Girard Avenue in Brewerytown, where PhillyCAM filmmaker Jay Mohen was killed in 2015, LoBasso said.
Before leading those assembled at 11th and Spruce Streets Saturday in the Lord's Prayer, Richard Fredricks appealed to anyone who witnessed and/or took video footage of his daughter's accident to come forward.
"Please get in touch," he said. "Don't let her death be in vain."