About 15 minutes after 1 p.m. Thursday, Eunice Chang pulled the dried flowers honoring her partner and threw them into the brush along Hillandale Road.
Cars and trucks whooshed by as Chang set aside jars, still full with water for the flowers, and prepared to take down the white ghost bike that for two years had memorialized her partner Seth Vidal. The bike marked the area where Vidal was struck around 9 p.m. in July 2013 by a hit-and-run driver and died at age 36.
Chang, 37, felt sad and disappointed in her city, she said, as she removed the bike that served as a “sobering reminder of the consequences of inattentive driving and non-friendly bike infrastructure.”
The removal comes after Durham resident Khalil Nasir complained on July 22 about the bike on Hilliandale near the intersection of Interstate 85. The complaint started the clock for a city of Durham policy that states memorials on city property can remain, but will be removed within 45 days after someone complains.
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Complaints from Nasir, who didn’t respond to an email requesting comment by Thursday afternoon, also resulted in the removal earlier this year of two other ghost bikes placed along roads where cyclists died after being hit.
Nasir’s third complaint, however, angered some community members, including Chang. Supporters of the ghost bikes said one person shouldn’t have so much power and that the memorials are reminders of traffic hazards.
Some critics of the bikes have said that the memorials are eyesores. Others said they shouldn’t be allowed to remain on city property in perpetuity.
More than 1,700 people have signed a Change.org petition requesting a change to the policy. On Aug. 6, City Council members asked staff to review the policy, which was approved in December to provide some consistency for the treatment of memorials on city property.
City Manager Tom Bonfield expects the issue to come back before the City Council next month, he said Thursday. Staffers are considering a range of options, from leaving ghost bikes alone to requiring a higher threshold of complaints before removing them, or setting a time limit on how long memorials can stay.
White, red, blue and purple artificial flowers covered the white bike on Hillandale Road. A little yellow decorative bird sat on on the back wheel.
Chang’s friend, Howard Staab, helped her remove the bike, held to a street sign with a thick padlocked chain. It took Staab about 25 minutes to cut through the steel chain with a saw and bolt cutter.
Chang pulled the bike away from the pole and replaced it with a black and white poster. The poster had a black heart with a white cyclist inside. It said “Cyclist killed here ... Seth Vidal (1976-2013) ... Please look for bikes.”
The bike was loaded into a car and taken to Chang’s home, a short drive from the site.
“The bike is currently in my front yard,” she said later. “I don't know how long I will put it up there, but that is where it is for now.”