DOWNTOWN — The family of Gerardo Marciales honored his life with a ghost bike and vigil Thursday Downtown, where a driver hit and killed the bicyclist. But police told them the bike will likely be removed soon.
Marciales’ loved ones were joined by volunteers from Bike Lane Uprising, a bicycle advocacy group that creates ghost bikes, as they set up a white bike with flowers and a sign honoring Marciales at DuSable Lake Shore and Balbo drives. The bikes are used to memorialize people killed by drivers.
“One of the reasons we wanted to do the vigil is because we wanted to raise awareness,” said Jaime Bolognone, Marciales’ fiancee. “We don’t want any other family to have to go through what we’ve gone through. … We hope that people are listening and the city will consider making some safety changes, not only to this intersection.
“Gerardo was the kindest, most generous person I’ve ever known.”
Marciales, 41, of Lincoln Park, was killed Feb. 28. He was riding his bike in a crosswalk across DuSable Lake Shore Drive when a driver hit him, police said. Marciales died from his injuries.
The driver, a 26-year-old man, was cited for disobeying lane markings, police said.
Marciales had gotten engaged to Bolognone in June, just months before his death. He popped the question while the two of them rode down the Chicago River on a boat. The two planned to get married in September; instead, Bolognone is learning to navigate life without him.
Marciales’ family has also struggled with his loss. Marciales helped support them financially; now, his friends are raising money online to help them. You can donate online.
“It’s been the hardest thing to lose you. You meant so much to me,” Mayra Marciales, one of his sisters, said at the vigil. “But you are in my heart, Gerardo. And that is where you will always be.
“I know that heaven caught you … but I wish you could have stayed. At least the memories I have with you, they will never fade. You are with me in my memories, and in my broken heart. I love you.”
Dubraska Diaz-Campos, Marciales’ older sister, thanked people — and especially other bicyclists — for coming to the vigil.
“Sometimes, in the worst moments in your life, you learn many things,” Diaz-Campos said. “We have learned many people care about you, even if you don’t know them.”
Something must change with pedestrian and bicyclist safety in Chicago, Diaz-Campos said.
“Everybody assumes he was doing something wrong,” Diaz-Campos said. “He was in the crossing path, behind him bother bikers, walkers and joggers were coming.
“What if you had a mother coming with a little stroller and kids, and someone can’t wait 45 seconds of a traffic light to wait, and decide to hit and kill?”
As Marciales’ loved ones approached the crosswalk where he was killed, two officers stopped them and said the ghost bike would be cut down if they chained it in “the middle of the street.” The officer said the family would need a permit for the ghost bike to stay.
Still, the family put the bike at the median beside where Marciales was killed.
Christina Whitehouse, who is the founder of Bike Lane Uprising and who helped organize the vigil and creation of the ghost bike, said she was not told beforehand the bike’s placement would be an issue. She spoke to city officials last week who did not say there’d be an issue and who told her they’d inform police of the plan, Whitehouse said. She also posted online about the bike’s creation, tagging the Police Department, but those officials did not reach out, Whitehouse said.
Despite the warning from the officers, Marciales’ ghost bike remained attached to the median as of Friday morning.
Another officer at the vigil said the city would be in charge of removing the ghost bike. The agency’s workers would attempt to locate the owner of the bike and return it to them — though that would be an unlikely outcome in this case, the officer said.
Ghost bikes are routinely put up after a driver kills a bicyclist. Many remain untouched for years on sidewalks and at street corners.
But an officer at the vigil said they were concerned the ghost bike being attached to the median could become a “distraction” for drivers on DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), whose ward covers the site of Marciales’ ghost bike, tweeted about the issue Thursday night, saying he’d look into it. Reilly noted one of the ghost bike’s wheels protrudes from the median “a bit.”
Advocates pointed out that highlighted the safety concerns for pedestrians in Chicago.
“If a ghost bike doesn’t fit in this median [then] my own bike also doesn’t fit,” Whitehouse wrote back on Twitter. “A parent pushing a stroller probably doesn’t fit and a family of tourists probably don’t fit either. Perhaps the median should be wider.”
Spokespeople for the transportation and sanitation departments did not immediately return requests for comment.
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