Sunday Options: Missed Milly's Leads to a Ghost Bike
Getting out the door late is not something I try to make a habit of, but every once in a while it happens. As a result, the trip to Highland Park for the Sunday ride with the Milly's Riders p/b Squadra Folgore, was almost for naught. The one saving grace proved to be the stretch down Avenue 64 where, at the intersection with Church Street and directly across from the Church of the Angels, I caught sight of this ghost bike.
On June 16 of this year, Jose Cuellar crashed while riding his bike at this intersection. Ten days later, on June 24 while in hospital, his life came to an end. More than four months later there are still questions and doubts about what exactly happened on that Father's Day night. Some say the crash was a simple, yet tragic, solo accident. Some neighbors recall hearing the squealing of tires at the time it happened.
Though I have been to a ghost bike dedication, this is the first time I have ever just happened upon one. The emotive response between the two are as different as night and day. Being surrounded and caught up in the swell of grief as part of a large crowd, as opposed to the somber yet serene, individual moment. As I stood thinking about what the memorial meant I noticed at least one of the candles was lit; someone had clearly been there before me, paying their own respects, perhaps remembering a family member, a friend, maybe a neighbor. The two paper "spoke cards" were drawings lovingly made by someone young, but I didn't notice the name of the fallen rider anywhere on the memorial - it wasn't until I arrived back home that I knew for sure who it was for. There is no question that seeing Mr. Cuellar's ghost bike was a jolt out of whatever reverie I may have been in at the time. One moment I was playing with thoughts of the upcoming ride, while the next those thoughts had succumbed to stark white nothing. The ride strangely just did not matter anymore; someone, even though I did not know who, had lost their life here. Actually, that is not quite true; I did know one thing, this was a fellow cyclist. That one thing told me a lot.
Ghost bikes, of course, serve a double role: They are a memorial for a person, a life, a way for family and friends to remember. At the same time they draw attention to a need for caution and safety. For those of us who may not have known Jose Cuellar, this ghost bike gives us cause to pause and consider what was lost, what potential was erased, what impact on the lives of others will never be. What did this person mean to family, to friends? Ride in Peace, Jose Cuellar.