Thursday, November 13, 2008

'Ghost bike' memorial is vandalised
12 November 2008
Dobbin, with what remains of the ""ghost bike
Dobbin, with what remains of the ""ghost bike
HEARTLESS vandals have wrecked a "ghost bike" memorial marking the spot where a much-loved cyclist was killed.

Australian James Foster, 36, died in July 2003 when he was hit by a car as he left work at Mosquito Bikes cycle shop, in Essex Road, Islington.

James Foster
James Foster
The driver, who was over the limit, was already banned for a previous drink driving conviction.

In July this year Mr Foster's colleagues made a white skeleton bike out of spare parts and chained it outside the shop to mark the fifth anniversary of their friend's death.

But last month the tribute was vandalised.

Dobbin, 39, manager of Mosquito Bikes, said: "At first I couldn't believe it, then I thought 'I can believe it round here'. Islington is one of the worst places for getting your bike nicked. They nicked the stem, the handlebars and the front wheel but they were all old so they were useless.

"We had it outside the shop because that's where James was killed."

So-called "ghost bike" memorials originated in America but it was Mr Foster's death that was the inspiration for the website being set up in the UK. Identical tributes to other cyclists have since sprung up in Stoke Newington, Dalston, Brighton and Wales.

"We wanted to do a tribute to James," said Dobbin. "He was a nice guy, a great big Tasmanian guy with these red dreadlocks. He always had this big grin on his face. He was fun to be around.

"People get together every year on his anniversary and we ride from the shop down into Clerkenwell in a sort of cortege. Drivers have to slow down and think how dangerous cars can be."

In September Islington community campaigner Lisa Pontecorvo, of Thornhill Square, Barnsbury, was killed by a lorry as she wheeled her bike across Holloway Road, Holloway.

Dobbin said: "Usually its couriers who get knocked off and it's not reported. It's not that common. People think it's dangerous and the odds show it's not. It's just when things go wrong they really go wrong."

Sarn Baggett, a mechanic at Mosquito who built and painted Mr Foster's ghost bike, has vowed to repair it and has even gained permission from Islington Council to chain it up permanently in Essex Road.

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