Belfast Telegraph

Belfast ghost bike: Widow moved by memorial at site of husband’s accident

By Amanda Poole

The memory of a cyclist killed in a road collision has been honoured with the placing of a ‘ghost bike’ memorial — the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The grieving widow of Michael Caulfield says she would like to personally thank whoever is responsible for arranging the tribute to her husband.

Mrs Caulfield spoke of her 56-year-old husband’s death for the first time last night after a white bicycle was anonymously locked to railings at Ormeau Bridge, south Belfast, close to the spot where he was killed last April.

The father-of-four died on the morning of Friday, April 15, 2011, after he was in collision with a delivery lorry while out cycling. The mystery bicycle placed quietly on the Ormeau Road is thought to be a ghost bike, a memorial for cyclists killed on the street.

It is believed to be the first tribute of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Bernie Caulfield (50) told the Belfast Telegraph that she had “mixed feelings” when she first heard about the memorial at Ormeau Bridge.

“Initially, I was quite shocked because nobody asked me,” Bernie said.

“But ... I have learned that it’s big in New York and other countries and I now want to thank the people who put it there.”

Mrs Caulfield explained her husband had been cycling for pleasure on the morning he died, as a way to “set himself up for the day”.

She said the first anniversary of his death has been extremely difficult for her and the couple’s four children, Conor, Aidan, Caroline and Emma.

Mrs Caulfield, who lives in the Saintfield Road area, has paid an emotional visit to the crash site for the first time and she had a look at the ghost bike memorial.

“With Michael, what you saw was what you got,” Bernie explained.

“He never a bad word to say about anyone. He was a gentleman, a good husband, a fantastic father and nothing was ever a bother to him.

“He loved his family and he loved me and he was as diligent in his work as he was in his home.

“I want to personally speak with the people who left the ghost bike tribute. It’s a nice gesture and I want to be able to say thank you.”

The first ghost bike was created in the USA in 2003 and since then they have appeared at hundreds of sites worldwide.

The well-intentioned memorials do divide opinion, with some people of the belief they are potentially upsetting to families of the deceased, while others applaud their poignant and striking presence.

A spokesman for Sustrans Northern Ireland, said that the placement of ghost bikes must be carefully considered.

“Ghost bikes can be a striking way to highlight the safety risks in a particular area, and can be a tribute to a friend, but it should come down to a decision of those who knew the individual best,” he said.

“By far the best way to make cycling safer is to have more people out on their bikes, so we must be careful not to overplay the risk involved.”

”Cycling is, on the whole, a safe and enjoyable way to get around.”

If you left the ghost bike on Ormeau Bridge please contact the Belfast Telegraph on 028 9026 4000 so we can put you in touch with Mrs Caulfield.

Background

Ghost bikes are memorials for cyclists who are killed or hit on the street. A bicycle is painted white and locked near the crash site, usually accompanied by a small plaque. They serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner and as a statement in support of cyclists' right to safe travel.

For more information visit www.ghostbikes.org

Thought-provoking proclamation of cyclists’ rights

Belfast's first ghost bike is situated at a spot that hundreds of cyclists pass every day. We come down the cycle lane on the Ormeau Road, or across the park and through the gates and converge at the pedestrian crossing. There are routinely more cyclists than people on foot there.

Now there is a ghost bike in situ, an old bike painted white, to remind us that Michael Caulfield died there a year ago under a lorry.

The ghost bike is a memorial to a casualty of traffic that is careless of cyclists. Primarily, it should make drivers think about how easily they might run over one of us.

But it is a reminder to cyclists too of how vulnerable we are. We feel safer in numbers. There is a steady flow of us into town now, but we are always aware of how badly the cycle lanes are laid out — how they suddenly stop and you have nothing but footpath or a busy stretch of road.

I hope the ghost bike stays. It is a tribute to a man who should not have died; it is a proclamation of cyclists’ rights. It also reminds us that we are never as safe as we blithely imagine when rolling free.

Malachi O’Doherty’s book On My Own Two Wheels is published next month by Blackstaff Press

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