More than anything, Erik Limpaecher was surprised.
The Concord resident late Sunday night erected a “ghost bike” along a busy road in the neighboring town of Lincoln, near where a cyclist was killed in a crash on Aug. 17. By Monday morning, the memorial, a stripped-down bike painted a glaring white and adorned with a sign bearing the victim’s name, had vanished.
“I didn’t expect it to be taken down within hours,” said Limpaecher. “It was really disappointing.”
Limpaecher said he spoke to a police officer parked near where the ghost bike had been chained to a stop sign on Virginia Road. The officer told Limpaecher that the bike had been removed by the town, and would need to be placed on private property if he wanted it to stay up.
“The police officer was deferential, and said he appreciated the sentiment, but said some people don’t appreciate having such a stark reminder of a tragedy like that,” said Limpaecher. “I assume they [took it down] because of some interpretation of the town’s laws. But I would hope that they would have empathy for the family of the cyclist, and for the cycling community.”
Ghost bikes have long been used by cyclists to both honor those killed in crashes, and remind drivers to remain alert and share the roads. They are often put up anonymously, or, in other instances, placed at the scene of a fatal crash during a ceremony attended by fellow bike enthusiasts.
The ghost bike in Lincoln was put up by Limpaecher in remembrance of 59-year-old Mark Himelfarb, who was struck by a motor vehicle and killed last week on Virginia Road. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office identified Himelfarb as the victim of the crash Monday night, the same day Limpaecher’s impromptu memorial disappeared.
Lincoln Police Lieutenant Sean Kennedy said the bike is at the station, and can be retrieved this week. He said the town’s stance is to keep these types of permanent memorials off public property. Kennedy referred the Globe to town officials for further comment.
In an e-mail, Town Administrator Timothy Higgins said the bike was taken down because it was placed near the crash site without permission from the town.
“Further,” Higgins said, “we were unaware of the identity of the group or individual responsible for the ‘ghost bike,’ or whether the person or group had consulted with the family.”
Higgins said the stop sign chosen as the location is at the corner of a “heavily traveled intersection, where the roadways meet at a sharp angle.”
“A more inappropriate location could not have been chosen,” he said, because it can be distracting to drivers.
Higgins said the town will try to come up with an alternative approach to remembering the victim “that respects the interests of all parties, including those of the family of the deceased and those of the traveling public.”
Himelfarb’s death marked the second fatal crash in Lincoln involving a bicyclist this summer. On June 16, 61-year-old Eugene Thornberg of Wayland was fatally struck by a vehicle on Route 126.
A ghost bike memorial service is being held Saturday, Sept. 10, for Thornberg, according to Richard Fries, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, or MassBike. Fries said in a blog post Monday that the town has agreed to allow a ghost bike for Thornberg to stay up through that weekend, before it’s removed.
Fries said Thornberg’s family is considering looking for a place on private property to display the ghost bike permanently.
“Any monument — and you see them all over the world — is a pretty good reminder to everybody, and every road user, about what goes on on our streets and highways,” said Fries.