VIC­TIM’S MOTHER WANTS ‘GHOST BIKE’ RE­TURNED

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALI ROCK­ETT

“It’s a me­mo­rial. It’s a way to re­mem­ber Lanie, but it’s also a re­minder.

Ev­ery time Patty Kruszewski passes the in­ter­sec­tion at Bridge­way and River roads, she blows a kiss to her daugh­ter. The nar­row, wind­ing road near the Rich­mond-Hen­rico County line is where 24-year-old Lanie Kruszewski died July 29, 2012, when a driver who was tex­ting hit her as she biked home from work.

A day af­ter her death, a bike, painted white, ap­peared on the road­side — not even Patty Kruszewski knows who put it there. Chained to a city tele­phone pole just off the road, the “ghost bike” has re­mained a fix­ture there for the last sixand-a-half years.

Un­til last week, when a man who re­cently built a home nearby took it down af­ter the city de­clined his re­quest to re­move it.

“I be­lieve the bike to be a traf­fic hazard as driv­ers can be eas­ily dis­tracted by see­ing a bike sud­denly on the right side with no break­down or bik­ing lane present,” said David Pan­graze, who owns the cor­ner lot that abuts Bridge­way and River roads, in a Feb. 12, 2018, email to the city ask­ing for “as­sis­tance in re­mov­ing the bike.”

The bike was on city prop­erty, not Pan­graze’s. A berm and a brick wall in­stalled by Pan­graze sep­a­rate the home and the pole where the bike leaned,

ob­struct­ing it from view.

“It’s not on his prop­erty. He re­ally has no right,” Patty Kruszewski said. “He ap­pointed him­self en­forcer.”

Passers-by of­ten tell her the bike re­minds them to slow down, to put down their phone, to drive more care­fully.

“It’s a me­mo­rial,” she said. “It’s a way to re­mem­ber Lanie, but it’s also a re­minder.

“It’s a re­minder that makes peo­ple un­com­fort­able, es­pe­cially peo­ple who live there.”

Pan­graze, a cor­po­rate sales ex­ec­u­tive for Nike Golf, and his wife, Kay, a real es­tate con­sul­tant and the lo­cal project man­ager for a Cal­i­for­nia-based realty group be­hind a failed out­let mall in Hanover County, bought the prop­erty that faces Bridge­way Road in

2016. Last year, the cou­ple built a 4,300-square-foot home on the prop­erty, which is just out­side the city lim­its in Hen­rico. The home is worth just shy of $1 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to prop­erty records.

Pan­graze re­fused to com­ment for this story.

Sharon North, a spokes­woman for the city’s Pub­lic Works and Pub­lic Util­i­ties de­part­ments, con­firmed the shoul­der where the bike was lo­cated is just within the city lim­its.

The city’s pol­icy for road­side memo­ri­als states that a res­i­dent must make a re­quest through a coun­cil mem­ber and meet with a Trans­porta­tion En­gi­neer­ing Divi­sion rep­re­sen­ta­tive for ap­proval. It mir­rors a pol­icy writ­ten by the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion. The ghost bike was placed there anony­mously, mean­ing no one asked for per­mis­sion.

Sim­i­lar white bikes have popped up across the coun­try and world where cy­clists were killed as somber re­minders to driv­ers to share the road, ac­cord­ing to a site that tracks the lo­ca­tion of ghost bikes. The bikes, like most makeshift road­side memo­ri­als, are gen­er­ally left alone.

An­other ghost bike is chained to a street sign at the cor­ner of Row­land and Main streets in the Fan District mark­ing where Corey Fra­zier, a 21-year-old ju­nior at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity, was struck by a car while bik­ing home from work last year.

The city pol­icy states that its trans­porta­tion divi­sion will in­ves­ti­gate any com­plaint about a road­side me­mo­rial and will re­move it if it “in­ter­feres with road­way usage or main­te­nance, vis­i­bil­ity of signs or sig­nals, im­pedes the traf­fic, presents a hazard should a mo­torist strike it, or if it poses a threat to pub­lic safety.”

The in­ter­sec­tion where Lanie Kruszewski died has been the site of nine crashes since 2014, ac­cord­ing to a Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles data­base. Only one in­jury was re­ported, and dis­tracted driv­ing was cited in three of the nine — though the data­base does not spec­ify the dis­trac­tion.

The night of July 29, 2012, Elias Webb struck Lanie Kruszewski as he looked down at his phone to text a friend. She died 15 to 30 sec­onds af­ter the im­pact, ac­cord­ing to med­i­cal tes­ti­mony at Webb’s crim­i­nal trial. He tes­ti­fied that he thought he’d hit a deer and con­tin­ued driv­ing.

Patty Kruszewski said she has for­given Webb. She met with him once while he served a three-year sen­tence for leav­ing the scene of an ac­ci­dent that caused in­jury or death, and twice since his re­lease.

Since her daugh­ter’s death, Patty Kruszewski has pushed for leg­is­la­tion like Vir­ginia House Bill 1811 that ex­pands the state’s dis­tracted driv­ing law. The cur­rent law pro­hibits only read­ing email or texts, and tex­ting as a means of com­mu­ni­cat­ing. As a new ses­sion of the state’s Gen­eral Assem­bly just be­gan, Patty Kruszewski said she wishes she could fo­cus more on get­ting the leg­is­la­tion passed.

“I wish I wasn’t deal­ing with this,” she said. “It’s silly.”

Kruszewski’s death and the crim­i­nal case against Webb, which were widely re­ported, gal­va­nized bi­cy­cling ad­vo­cates and out­raged many in the com­mu­nity. Now, the out­rage has turned to­ward Pan­graze. Posts on social me­dia have called for boy­cotts of Pan­graze’s em­ployer, Nike, and re­tribu­tive ac­tions like dump­ing dozens of bikes in front of his home.

In his com­plaint to the city, Pan­graze said the bike was placed il­le­gally be­cause there was no per­mit. Spokes­men for the city and po­lice depart­ment wouldn’t say whether Pan­graze’s de­ci­sion to re­move the bike was le­gal.

Other than Pan­graze’s, the city fielded com­plaints from one other res­i­dent in the nearly seven years the bike had been on River Road. In 2017, a woman said the me­mo­rial was col­lect­ing trash and was a hin­drance to school buses; the same woman had ap­par­ently com­plained pre­vi­ously that her chil­dren were “upset about see­ing the ‘ghost’ bike,” ac­cord­ing to emails pro­vided by the city.

Doug Mawby, a city en­gi­neer, said in an email in re­sponse to the woman’s com­plaints that he didn’t be­lieve the bike hin­dered mo­torists, buses, cy­clists or pedes­tri­ans.

In re­sponse to Pan­graze’s com­plaint, the city’s pedes­trian, bi­cy­cle and trails co­or­di­na­tor, Jakob Helm­boldt, told other city of­fi­cials that “due to the sen­si­tive na­ture, it was al­lowed to re­main.”

In an email dated Jan. 5 to Patty Kruszewski, whom he had con­tacted a year ago about re­plac­ing the bike with a sign, Pan­graze wrote: “As part of our yard clear­ing process, we will be re­mov­ing the bike from the tele­phone pole. I will keep the bike in good stand­ing at my home and can make it avail­able to you at your con­ve­nience.”

Patty Kruszewski said she re­sponded the next day, but “by that time, he’d al­ready re­moved it.” Pan­graze of­fered to put up a sign. “A sign is too generic,” Patty Kruszewski said. “He told me he had the bike. I told him, ‘If you want to ne­go­ti­ate, put the bike back.’ I can’t see how we’re go­ing to meet in the mid­dle.”

She took flow­ers and a wreath from Lanie’s grave in Hol­ly­wood Ceme­tery to the River Road site on Wed­nes­day, and again Fri­day.

“I have some ideas of what would re­place the bike — but they’re pretty spe­cific, and he won’t like them,” said Patty Kruszewski, adding that she would ac­cept a large sign shaped like a bike with lights or a stone or brick sculp­ture of a bike. She’s con­sid­er­ing go­ing be­fore the City Coun­cil or con­tact­ing a coun­cil­man to get a per­mit for the bike.

Lanie Kruszewski was an avid cy­clist and loved the out­doors, her mother said. She of­ten re­fused rides home from work, choos­ing in­stead to bike, in­clud­ing the night she died.

“I think she’d be fight­ing for the bike,” Patty Kruszewski said.

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Patty Kruszewski (top) stands by wreaths and flow­ers she placed near where her daugh­ter Lanie Kruszewski died in 2012 when she was struck by a car as she biked home from work. Patty placed them af­ter a “ghost bike”(above) was re­moved from the site at the cor­ner of Bridge­way and River roads, where it had been for years.

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

A man who owns a home ad­ja­cent to the spot where Lanie Kruszewski died took the “ghost bike” into his pos­ses­sion af­ter the city re­fused his re­quest to re­move it.

DANIEL PRITCH­ETT

The bike me­mo­rial had been chained to a city light pole since July 30, 2012, the day af­ter Lanie Kruszewski was struck and killed while bik­ing on the road.

Lanie Kruszewski

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