Memorial service held for man killed in Oakland

By Olivia Garber

One year after cyclist Rui Hui Lin was struck and killed by a driver, a group of cyclists… One year after cyclist Rui Hui Lin was struck and killed by a driver, a group of cyclists gathered to repair his memorial site in Oakland this week.

About 20 bystanders gathered at the corner of Meyran Avenue and Louisa Street and watched as Nick Drombosky, who organized the memorial service, wheeled away the battered, dilapidated “ghost bike” and replaced it with a new one.

Drombosky, who had repainted the old bike four times since its erection last year, said that the bike had reached the point where replacing it became necessary.

Rob Delacretz, who was present during the service, said that both bikes and the wheels that had to be replaced were all donated from cyclists.

No one who knew Lin personally was present, although Drombosky said that the family comes by every week to drop off food. This week oranges, blueberries, and some Ghirardelli chocolates were set at the base of the bike.

Lin was a 38 year-old Chinese American immigrant who was saving money to bring his pregnant wife and child to America before being struck and killed at the corner of Meyran Avenue and Louisa Street.

His memorial is not the only place around Pittsburgh where a ghost bicycle rests. One also stands along a stretch of Harts Run Road in Indiana Township, where Donald Parker was killed by a motorist earlier this summer. Drombosky and a group of friends also put together that memorial site.

Ghost bikes are small memorials indicating the injury or death of a cyclist, represented by a bicycle painted white. The custom began in St. Louis in 2003, and has since become a global occurrence, according to, a website that documents ghost bikes and their stories.

Few have lasted so long as Lin’s. Drombosky said that in 2004, when ghost bikes first came to Pittsburgh, 14 bicycle memorials were erected. All were taken down within 48 hours or violating city codes.

Now, Drombosky has struck a deal with the city in order to preserve the memorials. If the site remains orderly, the city will allow it to remain, he said, as long as no one complains.

He said fellow cyclists also take turns with maintenance.

Although the bike has two signs that explain the purpose of the memorial, it is not safe from petty vandalism and even theft.

The first bike was stolen just one week after its placement. Fortunately first thief apparently had second thoughts, and the group quickly recovered Lin’s bike from a nearby backyard.

While the purpose of the event was to revamp the vandalised memorial, Drombosky also used the opportunity to share bicycle safety tips.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in a car or on a bike,” Drombosky said. “We can’t tolerate dangerous behavior that leads to this.”

Delacretz said that the memorial bikes aren’t just there for decoration. He explained that when people see a cross, a standard marker for roadside tragedy, they simply think “Oh, something happened,” and continue on their way.

“When we put out a bike, people pay attention,” Delacretz said.

The group hopes greater awareness will prevent future tragedies, in a state that reported 16 bicycle fatalities last year, double the number of fatalities in 2008.

Beth Albert, a Swissvale resident and participant in the memorial event, began bicycling last month at the suggestion of a friend.

Albert said she decided to bike for exercise, as well as reduce the amount of time in her car, but bicycling has also made her a better driver.

About a year ago, Albert said she nearly hit a bicyclist. The experience led her to issue an apology on Bike Pittsburgh’s website, a nonprofit organization that focuses on educating riders in the city.

Now behind handlebars instead of the wheel, Albert credits her confidence on the road to Bike Pittsburgh’s Flock of Cycles, a weekly mass ride that tours through Pittsburgh.

Noah Smit, a Flock of Cycles cyclist, said the 25 miles rides occur every Friday and hit most neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. The riders enjoy what Smit called “safety in numbers,” and obey all traffic laws during the excursion.

Delacretz, also a Flock of Cycles cyclist, calls the members “courteous roadies,” and said that obeying traffic laws is critical to bicycle safety.

“You only have the rights if you obey the laws,” Delacretz said.

Drombosky recommends that all new bicyclists to the Oakland area should join Bike Pittsburgh, as well as avoid Forbes and Fifth Avenue until they are comfortable riding.

But, Albert has a different piece of advice: “Act like you belong there. Otherwise, drivers will smell your fear.”