Loved ones honored Douglas DeMott with ghost bike ceremony in Tinley Park

Douglas DeMott's family with the ghost bike. Photo: John Greenfield
Douglas DeMott's family with the ghost bike. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday morning several dozen family members, friends, coworkers, and bike community members gathered on the shoulder of a multilane stretch of Harlem Avenue in Tinley Park to remember Douglas DeMott, 52, fatally struck on his bike by an elderly driver last January. They were there for the installation of a white-painted ghost bike memorial near the crash site to honor the fallen cyclist and serve as a reminder of the need to create safer conditions for bike riders.

DeMott’s obituary states that he was known for his “generous heart, biting wit, artistic talents, intriguing conversations, sweet tooth, keen eye to detail, stalwart work ethic, and selfless nature. His favorite things included film, science fiction, spoiling his family members, cultivating his vinyl collection, and riding his bicycle.”

He lived with his sister Dione Stolarski and her husband Len in Palos Heights, and every work day, no matter what the weather, he put his bike on the front rack of the Harlem Avenue Pace bus at 127th Street and rode to the end of the line at 183rd Street, and then pedaled  a couple of miles west to his job at ProVisur, a machining manufacturer in Mokena.

Installing the ghost bike. Photo: John Greenfield
Installing the ghost bike. Photo: John Greenfield

At about 5:30 p.m. on January 24, he was riding northbound at 185th Street and Harlem, just north of Harlem’s I-80 interchange and only only two blocks south of his bus stop, when the motorist, a 93-year-old woman in a sedan, struck him from behind. Last month the driver was charged with violating a night restriction on her license and failure to yield/show due care to a bicyclist in the road.

On Sunday volunteers from Ghost Bikes Chicago supplied the bike and chained it a pole on the east side of the highway near 185th, and then mourners placed flowers and mementos at the shrine and hammered a cross into the ground next to it. These included a wreath with images of vinyl records with photos of DeMott from various times in his life. Reflecting his love of sci-fi, one of the discs bore a quote from Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on “Star Trek”: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

DeMott’s brother-in-law Len Stolarski said a few words to the crowd, noting that DeMott would have appreciated the gathering. “Doug was a quiet guy,” he said. “He would be amazed at how many people are here. Doug was a guy that you never knew had so many friends because he never talked about it. He had so many different circles. We appreciate you coming here today, and I hope that people who see this bike realize how dangerous it out there and watch out for people on bikes and learn from this.”

“This was a very nice way to honor Doug,” DeMott’s brother Drew told me. “I like that [the ghost bike] will be a reminder not just of him but for people in the future to be safe, to be cautious, and to look for bicyclists.” He said the family wants to see safety improvements made to Harlem Avenue in Tinley Park to help prevent similar tragedies, which could include repaving or widening the shoulder, better signage, and more visible street paint. “My hope is that maybe we can prevent something like this from happening to someone else in the future.”

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