On Thursday night, I attended an event that was both somber and hopeful, a memorial and ghost bike installation for Blanca Ocasio, who was killed a year ago while riding her bike at Armitage and Kedzie.
A large group gathered at the corner of Palmer Square for the memorial. Over 100 people came together: 30 or so from the local bike scene, the rest were family and friends of Blanca Ocasio, or people from the neighborhood. Todd Allen introduced the event. Gin Kilgore spoke on behalf of Logan Square Walks. She would like to see the area be a safer place to ride when her little boy is old enough to explore on his own. Rob Sadowsky of Chicagoland Bicycle Federation also spoke. Blanca Ocasio's father, Ramon, spoke briefly about missing his daughter, but being sure she's looking down on us all from heaven. He was overcome with sadness and unable to continue. Blanca's brother continued, thanking the ghost bike community for organizing the event. He also thanked Howard Kaplan for coming and speaking to them privately about the healing power that a memorial can have. He spoke mostly in Spanish, staying that Blanca's life and death and the memorial were important both to Latino community and to anglos, mentioning the need for more driver awareness of bikes on our streets.
A common theme was the dangers we all face as cyclists and pedestrians when drivers focus only on getting where they are going faster. The way that roads are designed and the way drivers use them affects us all as we go about our daily lives. Logan Square Walks and CBF's Healthy Streets program are working with Alderman Rey Colon's office on improvements to make neighborhood streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. None of us wants to see anyone else killed at that intersection.
There were plans to do a ghost bike memorial last October, but when Howard Kaplan spoke to the family, they weren't ready. Thursday was the first anniversary of Blanca Ocasio's death. I hope that she is happily riding her bike in heaven, free from the threat of careless drivers.
I saw camera crews from Univision and Telemundo, but none from the major networks or Channel 9. Steven Lane produced a video. I saw no stories in the Trib or Sun-Times. But we were there. We remember.