Remembering a fallen cyclist
Woman prepares ghost-bike memorial for fatally injured bicyclist
Like most Chicoans, Frankie Dean was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the death of Kristina Chesterman, a vibrant young Chico State nursing student hit and killed, allegedly by a drunken driver, as she was riding her bicycle home from campus on the night of Sept. 22.
Unlike most Chicoans, however, Dean felt she had to do something in response. “It’s really, really sad,” she said during a recent interview in her north Chico home. “I didn’t want it to happen to anybody else.”
So she decided to create a “ghost bike.”
Dean is an avid bicyclist, familiar with the growing movement that places ghostly all-white bicycles at the sites where cyclists have been struck by cars and killed.
She says she first noticed ghost bikes on Facebook, when a friend whose brother had been killed while cycling had posted a photo of the Bay Area ghost bike located near where he had died. Later, she and her boyfriend, Dana Miller, were driving in the McKinleyville area, in Humboldt County, and saw a ghost bike alongside the road. It sent a powerful message.
Ghost bikes are meant not only to memorialize those who have died, but also to remind motorists that they are driving potentially lethal machines and to watch out for cyclists.
Unfortunately, the man who is alleged to have killed Chesterman and then fled the scene, 19-year-old Riley Dean Hoover, was reportedly so drunk he was beyond such messages. According to police, his SUV crashed into several vehicles while he was attempting to park it at his apartment complex just down Nord Avenue from the Big Chico Creek bridge, where Chesterman was struck. He later was found passed out on the floor in his apartment.
He’s since been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, among other offenses.
“She did everything right,” Dean said of Chesterman, her voice filled with emotion. “She was wearing a helmet, she was riding in a bike lane, her bike had lights—and still she died.”
Not everyone who runs into a cyclist is drunk, of course. Last November, 61-year-old Rick Magee died after being struck in the daytime by an SUV on the Midway, just north of Durham. The driver of the vehicle, a 71-year-old farm manager from Gridley named Tony Mardesich, later confessed to hitting Magee and, panicked, running from the scene. He was sober at the time.
Bicyclists love being outdoors, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the world around them and feeling their bodies working to move them forward. But there’s always a nagging worry as well, a faint taste of dread that comes from feeling so vulnerable to the drivers with whom they share the road.
Nationwide, more than 700 cyclists are killed each year, including about 100 in California, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The ghost-bike movement reportedly began in St. Louis in 2003, when volunteers began installing ashy-white bikes to remember fallen cyclists. It quickly spread, and now there are nearly 600 ghost bikes that have appeared in more than 180 locations throughout the world, from Austria to Australia by way of Belarus and Brazil, including more than 100 in New York City and a similar number in California, according to ghostbikes.org. Many of them are lavishly decorated with flowers, candles, photos and other remembrances.
The ghost-bike memorial for Chesterman will be the first in Chico.
Dean, who’s 53 years old, is a Chico native, as is Miller, her boyfriend, who is the former owner of Miller Buick-Oldsmobile, which he sold several years ago. Both are now real-estate agents, operating as a team out of the Century 21 office on Highway 32 at El Monte Avenue.
About a year ago, they became aware that the local chapter of Soroptimist International was sponsoring a free mammogram clinic. Miller asked Dean when she’d last had a mammogram. “About 10 years ago,” she replied. He insisted she get another. She didn’t think she needed one and didn’t want the hassle, but he was adamant.
Turned out she had a lump. A biopsy revealed it was cancerous, but it had been caught so early that she needed only a lumpectomy to be cured. She’s convinced Miller saved her life.
Since then she’s become something of a crusader for mammograms—a walking, talking example of the good they can do. She’s a runner as well as a bicyclist, and she’s set a goal of running 14 races next year—“14 in 2014,” she calls it—that benefit breast-cancer research.
This desire to give back also extends to preparing a ghost bike for the site where Chesterman was struck and mortally injured.
Sports LTD donated an old bike nobody was using, and Miller painted it white. Dean is in the process of making a placard for it that will include Chesterman’s name and date of death.
Dean’s not saying whether she will be directly involved in setting up the memorial. Local authorities don’t always welcome the bikes, so traditionally they’re installed anonymously, usually at night. Dean says several people have volunteered to place the bike, and in fact it may be up by the time this story appears.
One person who is excited about the memorial is Janine Rood, executive director of Chico Velo Cycling Club. The more motorists are aware of the dangers cyclists face, the better, she believes, and “when you see a bike that’s 100 percent white, it really stands out.”