Eerie warning to our MLAs of everyday dangers cyclists face
This is the eerie ‘ghost bike’ designed to haunt Assembly Members as they drive to work at Stormont.
It commemorates a popular Polish woman who lost her life on one of Belfast’s busiest roads just over a year ago.
Iwona Zakierska (31) was cycling to work at 7.45am on August 3, 2011 when she was knocked down by a lorry on the Newtownards Road.
Now, cyclists in Belfast have vowed that she won’t be forgotten. They have placed a white-painted ghost bike at the corner where she died as a reminder to MLAs on their way to Parliament Buildings of the dangers on our roads.
And Iwona’s friends have asked that she be remembered by the public by placing flowers at the spot where she lost her life.
The ghost bike is the second to appear in Northern Ireland and was the idea of John Wright from Green Action. Earlier this year a ghost bike was locked to railings at Ormeau Bridge in south Belfast, near to where Michael Caulfield (56) was killed last April.
“I get regular emails from the London cycling campaign and they do ghost bikes — that’s where the idea came from,” said John.
“Iwona was a quiet, hardworking girl from the Polish countryside and by all accounts she was very sensible. Nobody has a bad word to say about her. She came over here to make a life.”
Iwona died of head injuries sustained after her bike fell underneath a lorry which was turning left at the junction. She had not been wearing a helmet. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the Ulster Hospital.
The ghost bike was launched by Polish consul Jerome Mullen yesterday morning. At the same time as the unveiling took place, Iwona’s parents in Poland were talking to solicitor Matt Higgins and barrister Aidan Corrigan, who had travelled to their home to discuss a forthcoming court case concerning the death of their daughter.
Mr Mullen, who dealt with the repatriation of Iwona’s remains back to Poland, said: “She was a young lady that I believe had come here some years ago and was working extremely well in Sangers (pharmacy supplies). It was a very tragic event at the time.
“This is a lovely thing that has been done for her this morning. She has not been forgotten by the people of Northern Ireland.”
Mr Wright called on Assembly Members to set up an all-party group on cycling to make the roads safer for cyclists.
“My personal motivation is that the bike will sit there until the MLAs who are passing it every day take cycling seriously. It is unspeakably sad that cyclists live in constant fear of instant death on our ill-designed transport system,” he said.
“Politicians going to Stormont can see Iwona’s ghost bike, perhaps from their taxpayer-paid chauffeured cars. The ghost bike should be retained as a permanent reminder. Our politicians must take cycling seriously and hold our civil servants to account.”
Mr Wright said the departments of the Environment (DoE) and Regional Development (DRD) are resistant to investing in cycling — despite the benefits from a boost in cycling, such as health and tourism.
“DoE Road Safety have an annual budget of millions, none of which goes to protect the most vulnerable road user — cyclists. DoE behave as if they are deaf, dumb and blind to cycling.
“DRD Roads Service are much the same, but they’re doing somethings to redress the complete generation of anti-cycling policies. We see, therefore, some cycle lanes and green boxes at junctions,” he added.
Ghost bikes are memorials for cyclists who are killed or hit on the road. A bicycle is painted white and locked to a street sign near the crash site, accompanied by a small plaque. The first ghost bike was created in St Louis, Missouri, in 2003. More than 500 ghost bikes have since appeared in more than 180 locations throughout the world.