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Martyr's Memorial

"Ghost bikes" pay tribute to fallen cyclist, call for bike-friendly streets.

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Two painted-white bikes, one chained to a pole outside the Hi-Tone Cafe and one in Overton Square, mark the places where cyclist Chris Davidson began and ended the journey that killed him.

But the bikes are more than memorials to a fallen Midtown cyclist. They're also cries for change.

In the early hours of August 12th, 37-year-old Davidson set off on his bike after a rock show at the Hi-Tone. Somewhere near the corner of Cooper and Madison, he was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Davidson was able to get back on his bike and ride to his girlfriend's house but died later from his injuries.

Last week, cyclists Adam Hite and Leila Hamdan, both friends of Davidson, installed the "ghost bikes" at both locations.

"[The bikes] serve as a memorial to Chris and as a reminder to motorists of cyclists' right of travel," Hite said.

Over the past decade, similar ghost bikes have been installed across the world at sites where cyclists were killed by vehicles. They're often adorned with signs that read, "A cyclist was struck here." The National Ornamental Metal Museum is currently working on a set of bronze plaques to be placed on the two ghost bikes honoring Davidson.

"We're hoping motorists will see the bikes and remember what happened," Hamdan said. "And the next time they come around a corner and find a cyclist on the road, they'll respect that rider's rights."

But since Davidson's death more than three weeks ago, Hamdan has seen little (if any) change in the way Memphis drivers behave around cyclists.

"There's definitely a lot of momentum [to promote safety for cyclists] that's come out of this tragedy, especially among Chris' friends and the bike community," Hamdan said.

"The timing is really interesting with the debate over the Madison bike lanes going on," Hite said. "I think bike lanes are extremely important for the city when there are a lot of people who commute by bike."

For the past several months, cycling advocates and a few Madison Avenue business owners have butted heads over the city's proposal to add dedicated bike lanes along a stretch of Madison. Mayor A C Wharton is expected to make a decision on whether to add lanes or simply add "share the road" signage by this fall. Last Friday, nearly 50 cyclists gathered in Overton Square across the street from where Davidson was struck for a rally advocating for dedicated bike lanes along Madison.

Others are stepping forward with other ways to remember Davidson and highlight the need for change. Angela Russell, owner of Underground Art, hung posters around town calling for information on the motorist who hit Davidson. She's also placed ads in the Flyer with messages like, "On August 12, a hit and run killed our friend."

Last Thursday, Underground Art provided free tattoos of Davidson's catchphrase, "Man What!," dedicating the day's tips to the Davidson family.

Even with the swelling ranks fighting for bicycle and pedestrian safety in Memphis, more is needed to create change, Hamdan said: "Cyclists fighting for cyclists isn't enough. We need the city to show some leadership."

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