The memorial for a Kelowna’s Ernie Gabbs, a man killed in a 2019 cycling accident, has been vandalized. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Ghost Bike memorial for Kelowna paraplegic vandalized

Family and friends were shocked to discover the Ghost Bike memorial broken, mangled and burned

The memorial for a Kelowna man killed in a cycling accident has been vandalized.

A white bike in memory of Ernie Gabbs has leaned against the same sign since the 69-year-old’s death in August 2019.

Family and friends were shocked to discover the memorial ‘Ghost Bike’, left at the intersection of Dilsworth Drive and Harvey Avenue, is now broken, mangled and burned.

READ MORE: ‘Ghost bike’ memorial installed where Kelowna cyclist was killed by truck

Gabbs was a paraplegic for decades before his death, and was quite involved in hand cycling groups around town. He died at the intersection while riding his hand-cycle, a modified cycle for those who have lost the use of their legs.

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Ernie Gabbs was killed riding his hand-cycle in August, 2019. The memorial (right) was recently discovered vandalized. (Phil McLachlan – Capital News)

Landon Bradshaw, board member and past president of the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition, stood over the bike on Friday, Oct 2 (2020) on the busy highway corner and expressed his disappointment.

“Just mainly sadness, just the fact that with everything that’s going on right now, and all of the stress that we have beyond this, that somebody can be this callous, can be this un-feeling. There is absolutely no purpose in this. There is just nothing. This is somebody that’s angry, maybe? I don’t know.”

The bike was discovered vandalized Thursday, Oct. 1.

In 2013, the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition adopted the ghost bike program, something that started in the United States in the 90s. A ghost bike is a roadside memorial placed where a cyclist has been killed or severely injured, usually by a vehicle.

There are currently three ghost bike memorials in place in Kelowna; one downtown at Doyle Ave and Richter St in memory of Ben Staube, another at Banks Rd and Baron Rd in memory of Terry Campbell, as well as Gabbs’ memorial on Dilsworth. A memorial on Bernard was recently removed after being in place for almost five years.

“They (ghost bikes) mean a disconnect in the way we’re operating. All road users should be looking out for all road users. And these are indications that we’re not doing that, we’re failing. The system is failing in a sense,” said Bradshaw.

Channelized right-turning lanes, he said, are one of the more dangerous spots for cyclists, because drivers tend to look left while turning right.

One of the saddest parts of when a cyclist passes away, Bradshaw said, is the fact only one side of the story is known.

“Unfortunately we don’t learn from the mistakes, we can speculate, but is there enough to actually teach us what we need to be doing?”

In terms of steps to avoid vandalism like this in the future, Bradshaw was at a loss for words. However, in terms of raising awareness about hand cyclists, he said lots needs to change.

A cycling advocate, Bradshaw often hears that drivers think hand cyclists are too low to the ground, and can’t be easily seen. However, he drew comparisons between the height of a hand cyclist, and a young child, like his eight-year-old daughter.

“I don’t want to think that just because she’s short, she’s in more danger… I like to bike more often (than driving) because it’s fun”

He pointed toward Gabbs’ memorial.

“Nobody’s fun should end like this.”

On Sunday Bradshaw will be temporarily removing the bike from the intersection corner in order to refurbish and repaint it.

“The family is very thankful to have a place where they can come visit him,” he said.

READ MORE: COVID-19 exposure on Air Canada flight to Kelowna

READ MORE: Nuit Blanche bringing a night of art to Kelowna this weekend

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