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Ghost bike appears at fatality site in Brookline

Posted by Tom Coakley  October 9, 2009 09:14 AM

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By Brock Parker, Globe Correspondent

While Brookline Police continue to investigate the cause of a fatal bicycle accident that killed a 22-year-old Emmanuel College graduate last month, a “ghost bike” has mysteriously been placed at the scene of crash.

The all-white bicycle, adorned with flowers and a memorial placard for Holbrook, NY, native Tracy Milillo is latched to a street sign near 29 Longwood Avenue—where Milillo crashed her bicycle on Sept. 9.

Brookline Police Captain Michael Gropman said this week that police are not filing charges against a Brookline motorist who had apparently thought he hit Milillo on the night of the crash.

Forensic tests have shown that the man’s vehicle did not collide with Milillo’s bicycle, Gropman said.

“We know it did not,” Gropman said. “We’re not sure why the bike fell.”

Milillo was found unconscious at the scene of the crash about 7 p.m. that night along with the motorist, who had stopped, Gropman said. Milillo was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she died from her injuries within 48 hours.

She suffered blunt trauma to her head, and police are awaiting the results of a toxicology exam on Milillo to help determine the cause of the crash. Gropman said Milillo was wearing a heavy backpack and he speculated that she may have lost her balance, or she may have had a mechanical problem.

He said the day Milillo was struck was supposed to be her last in Boston. Her parents were coming up to take her back to her home in Holbrook, NY.

David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said the bicycle placed at the scene of the crash on Longwood Avenue is known as a “ghost bike” and similar memorials have been placed at the sites of fatal bicycle accidents around the country.

Traditionally, Watson said ghost bikes “mysteriously appear” at crash scenes, and the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition had nothing to do with putting up the bike for Milillo. But Watson said the memorials are effective tools to bringing attention to fatal bicycle accidents.

“They definitely get everyone’s attention,” Watson said.

Gropman said Brookline Police have seen flowers at fatal crashes and homicides before, but this is the first time he’s seen a ghost bike.

Milillo’s death comes as Brookline is considering multiple changes for bicyclists in the town.

In September, Brookline’s Transportation Board approved a network of bicycle lanes and facilities that are designed to help bicyclists maneuver from Longwood Avenue to the BU Bridge. The route follows portions of Chapel, Carlton, Ivy, Essex and Montford streets , and Brookline Transportation Administrator Todd Kirrane said it was designed to help make Brookline more bicycle friendly.

Brookline’s Town Meeting will also be considering an article in November that would require all bicycles to be registered with the town. Kirrane said similar proposals have been presented to Town Meeting before, in an effort help recover stolen bicycles and to hold bicyclists more accountable on the roads.

Kirrane said the idea has been referred to Brookline’s Transportation Board before, and it was determined that the program would be too costly.

Watson said the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition is opposed to rules requiring bicycle registration.

“We see it as an obstacle to get more people to ride bikes,” Watson said.

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18 comments so far...
  1. The story should point out that this was a tragedy that may have been prevented had the victim been wearing a helmet. I'm amazed at the number of riders who don't wear helmets. It's just not safe.

    Also, who is the town trying to fool. They want to register bikes in order to eventually tax cyclists. Are there really that many stolen bikes a year? How is registering going to hold cyclists more accountable? And, aren't there more non Brookline residents cycling through Brookline in a day, than residents?

    So registration of bicycles, dogs, and leaf blowers in Brookline. Why not ask me for my home inventory?

    Posted by Windrider October 9, 09 11:50 AM
  1. Brookline is already almost impossible to drive around especially on beacon st, the average speed is like 10 miles per hour, and now they have more bicycle lanes so you can not even pass cars going at turtle speed, why don't they just make it a walking city all together. Bikers follow no rules, they think they are part of traffic and I've seen some sitting in the left lane waiting for a left turn, it's a joke.

    Posted by Mb October 9, 09 01:45 PM
  1. These creeps who want to raise awareness for dead bikers need to back up and start teaching the bikers awareness. The way bicyclists in this city blow through stop signs and red lights, it's amazing more aren't being killed. If they want to be treated like cars, they need to follow the same rules.

    Posted by Ryan October 9, 09 01:50 PM
  1. Cycling's enemy is not the car; it is the idiot. And idiots travel by foot, car, and bicycle. If anything, the bicycle has more in common with the car than it does with the pedestrian, since the bicycle is a vehicle too. Really, the problem is that too many people don't consider bicycles vehicles (which is why they tell us to "Get on the sidewalk!"), coupled with the fact that too many cyclists don't ride like they're operating vehicles in the first place.
    I'm all for ticketing cyclists that do the wrong thing.
    However, If they make me register my bikes, they better be prepared to start ticketing vehicles in the bike lane (including the fed ex truck that is near Marion and Beacon EVERYDAY), and responding to cyclists who witness egregious driving that nearly kills them by ticketing those drivers. I keep the non-emergency number of the Brookline police in my phone and often call to alert them to such infractions. I wait until they show up. I'd like to see others do the same. The number is 617-730-2222

    Posted by Daddo October 9, 09 02:06 PM
  1. Growing up in Brookline, we always registered our bikes and got a placard/sticker on it....it was to be able to identify the bike, if lost.

    Posted by Nelle October 9, 09 02:07 PM
  1. I drive to the Longwood area everyday through Brookline and am astonished by how many bicyclists ride without helmets. Isn't it a law that they have to wear helmets? It's an accident waiting to happen for them to cruise around in traffic without protection. Why don't the police stop them?

    Also, check out Commonwealth Avenue around rush hours for tons of non-helmet wearing bicyclists. Write them tickets!

    Posted by Mara October 9, 09 02:31 PM
  1. Mara, there is no helmet law for bicycle riders under 16.

    Posted by maus October 9, 09 04:03 PM
  1. To Mara: Please actually take the time read up on the law before attempting to complain about it. In Boston, only cyclists under the age of 16 are required to wear helmets. While you're at it, stop counting the helmetless cyclists and keep your eyes on the road.

    I commute by bike on Longwood every day and always wear my helmet, but I've had several close calls with reckless cars, pedestrians, and yes, even other cyclists who were simply in a rush to get to work and not paying attention to where they're going or how they're getting there. In more than one of these situations, if things had gone just a little bit differently, I would be dead, helmet or no helmet.

    What happened was a tragedy, and at this point no one can say whether a styrofoam hat would have prevented this terrible loss. Let's not jump to conclusions. My heart goes out to Tracy's family and friends.

    Posted by Xue October 9, 09 04:15 PM
  1. ! I meant "over 16".

    Posted by maus October 9, 09 04:16 PM
  1. Mb - are the bikers supposed to take a left turn from the right lane? Read the Mass laws - bikers are supposed to be in traffic, in the appropriate lane. If they're taking a left turn, they move into the left-turn lane.

    Posted by Finnigan October 9, 09 04:27 PM
  1. A lot of these comments are insensitive, generic stereotypes of bikers. It's difficult enough coping with the loss of a close friend without people criticizing the horrific incident. We don't know what happened, and that makes any sort of closure or acceptance that much more difficult. It's much easier to say how things would have been different "if only..." but what happened happened and as much as we wish we could, we can't go back & change it.

    Maybe the ghost bike memorial and Tracy's story shouldn't have been featured in the same article as some of the politics of the city of Brookline and bike registration; or maybe readers could just be a little more sensitive and sympathize instead of criticize.

    Posted by kmo October 9, 09 05:10 PM
  1. My condolences to the family & friends.

    Rego of bikes - If you want to make traffic congestion WORSE then register bikes. Then there will be more cars stuck in the traffic lights infront of you, taking your parking spot, crashing into people, causing air pollution, costing money for road construction and maintenance and the hospitals will fill up with the obese and heart disease caused by lack of exercise.

    When helmets were made compulsary in Australia, bike numbers to schools dropped 30%, traffic problems got worse, kids got fatter and more people became scared of the road.

    Get sensible. Bikes can be booked without rego. I have. If you think rego with solve everything, try remembering a car rego after an incident and report it to the police. Then maybe you'll see it doesn't help much. 5% of vehicles on Australian roads are either unregistered or the driver unlicenced - that's 5x more than there are bikes. And you also have to prove who was driving!

    Posted by Iain October 9, 09 07:49 PM
  1. Just because the car didn't make contact with the cyclist doesn't mean that the car wasn't at fault. The car could very well have cut her off or done something else that made her swerve out of the way and crash.

    I also agree with Daddo back there about idiots being the enemy of cycling. They're really the enemy of everyone out there. As a driver, cyclist, and pedestrian in Boston I feel that everyone needs to just pay more attention

    Posted by AaronD October 9, 09 08:14 PM
  1. To the first three posters..... You need to have a little bit of sensitivity. I am from Long island and Tracy was one of my VERY close friends. If you dont know how the accident happened....You shouldnt be commenting on it. Just because you have a opinion doesnt mean you should voice. Go to town hall and cry about bicyclists. Here is Def. not the place believe me.

    Posted by Paul Laska October 9, 09 08:24 PM
  1. I think people need to be a little more sensitive to the story. It is still unknown the cause of the accident. And as for the memorial, it is a nice idea. All those ragging on it, place yourself in the shoes of Tracy's family and friends. And think if it happened to someone you knew.. would you want people saying what some of you have said on here?

    Posted by Ashley October 12, 09 08:49 PM
  1. Thank you Ashley. We want to remember Tracy as the vibrant, loving young woman she was. It is too bad Brookline politics got mixed up in a story about the memorial. As for the Ghost Bike, it is a world wide expression of remembrance people killed riding bicycles. See ghostbikes.org. This is a fitting tribute to a woman who will be missed. Now lets take the politics to town hall or the state house.

    Posted by JohnP October 13, 09 09:38 AM
  1. The article does not mention whether Tracy was wearing a helmet or not. So unless you know something that is not in the article, then we don't know if she was or wasn't wearing a helmet. I don't think that blunt trauma can only happen without a helmet.

    In any case, it's a tragedy that a cyclist died.

    Posted by Raymond Paquette October 16, 09 12:50 PM
  1. like paul said we both grew up and were close friends with traacy she wasnt the type of so called "cycling idiot" that some of these posters are tryin to make her out to be , noone knows what happened that night except tracy , i think the ghost bike is a beautiful jesture and does both morn the loss and show the concerns of bicyclists. we all love her n miss her soo much ...

    Posted by allie October 23, 09 10:04 PM