‘Ghost bike’ serves as remembrance, reminder
By Steve Metsch For Sun-Times Media September 3, 2013 8:14AM
Updated: October 4, 2013 6:29AM
Friends and family of Brian McDevitt are hoping the “ghost bike” ceremony held Monday at the corner of 135th Street and Ridgeland Avenue won’t be repeated any time soon.
They hope the bike — painted entirely white — will serve as a somber reminder that roadways must be shared by motorists and bicyclists.
McDevitt, 30, a Chicago police officer from the Mount Greenwood community, died June 21 from injuries he received 10 days prior when he was hit by an SUV while crossing Ridgeland Avenue on a bike ride with a friend. No charges were filed against the driver.
Friends Jim Derkacy and Bert Travis led a silent procession of about 25 bicyclists Monday down Ridgeland Avenue to the site, bringing along the ghost bike they built.
Right now, the bike is chained to a traffic light at the southwest corner of the intersection. It may be moved to the southeast corner.
“We want a place with the most visibility,” Travis said.
Elizabeth Adamczyk, a board member of Ride of Silence, an annual bike ride dedicated to bicyclists killed in traffic, hopes the message is learned.
“We have a ride in Chicago every year. Oak Lawn has one. We had 18 rides in Illinois last year,” she said. “The rules of the road apply to bicyclists as they do to motorists. The ghost bikes serve as a moment of pause that the road is for everybody. We need to be aware and respect each other.”
Monday was tough on everyone who knew McDevitt, but especially Derkacy, who saw the horrible accident unfold and was unable to save his buddy.
“The lady never stopped. He was just ahead of me by 20 or 30 feet. I knew the turn arrow had to be on. I tried to get his attention. At the last second he saw her and tried to get away. She hit him with the center of her SUV,” Derkacy said.
It was Derkacy, 25 years Brian’s senior, who bestowed the nickname of “Bomber” on him.
The then-teenage McDevitt loved to shoot long-range shots “bombs from another ZIP code” when playing basketball with the older guys in the neighborhood. The nickname stuck and it is inscribed on the ghost bike.
Derkacy got McDevitt interested in riding bikes. He was proud that McDevitt became a Chicago police officer, working in the Chicago Lawn District, where he got another nickname for his uncanny ability to pursue suspects, former partner Tom Carey said.
“He was a very good policeman. He was very fast, so the guys we chased, they started calling him, ‘White Lightning.’ I swear to God. We’d pull up and a lot of guys wouldn’t run because they knew he was in the car,” Carey said.
“It was hard going back to work. I’d talk to him about everything. The bad guys, they asked, ‘Where is White Lightning?’ It was weird, even though they are drug dealers, they felt bad for him, and that was pretty cool,” he said.
Carey said McDevitt, ironically, had taken the day off from his often dangerous job to spend time with his family and to take a bike ride “and this is how it turned out.”
Carey is planing a benefit in April to raise money for McDevitt’s young children.
McDevitt’s widow, Margaret, said “he would love” Monday’s tribute. His children, Brian Jr., 3, and Molly, 1, were home Monday with his mother, Brenda.
“She can’t even drive through this intersection yet,” Brian’s younger sister Sarah, said.
Motorists tend to not give bicyclists enough space and sometimes don’t even see them, Travis said.