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Family and Supporters Honored Lisa Schalk Yesterday With a Ghost Bike Memorial

Mourners place flowers on the ghost bike for Lisa Schalk. Photo: Chicago Ghost Bikes

Yesterday afternoon a group of 15 family members, friends and supporters gathered to honor fallen cyclist Lisa Schalk, 50, by installing a white-painted "ghost bike" memorial at the Southwest Side crash site. A motorist fatally struck Lisa on her bicycle on the morning of Wednesday, November 1, at the intersection of Archer and Lorel avenues in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood, near Midway Airport. Lisa, a Chicago native, was a mother, a sister, a longtime cyclist, and a friend to many.

Ghost Bikes Chicago contacted the family to organize the memorial, and West Town Bikes donated the bicycle. After we stood on the corner, Lisa’s mother Joan approached, shaking, with tears in her eyes. I held her in my arms as tight as I could, and then I handed her a flower to place on the bike. One by one, each mourner followed suit, attaching a flower to the bike in silence.

A photo of Lisa Schalk taken in 1990.
A photo of Lisa Schalk taken in 1990.

Lisa's brother Mark Schalk broke the silence with a simple, “What happened was terrible -- we will miss her.” The family seemed to still be in shock over their loss, and while not much was said, their sad faces said more than any words could. Then Mark spoke one last time. “I hope the city will do something about this problem. My mom should not have to bury my sister, her daughter, It’s just not right.”

After all the flowers were placed, the bike was chained to a pole. The family then led a prayer, as if to make their peace with the passing of their loved one.

Afterwards as we stood on Archer Avenue, a broad, four-lane street, people occasionally rode by on bikes, highlighting the need for the city to install bike lanes on this street, which should be a safe, direct cycling route downtown from the Southwest Side. We also need drivers to be held accountable when they injure and kill other road users. (Lisa's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the motorist, John Mitchell, 79, and his employer, the Aldi grocery store chain.) And we can't stop pushing for safer streets until there's no longer a need for ghost bikes.

Kristen Green is the lead organizer for Ghost Bikes Chicago.

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