Ghost Riders: Way of Life

On March 30 of this year, Leigh Boone was cycling along Lower Westheimer near Dunlavy. Suddenly, two fire trucks collided mere feet from Boone. One of them — a 40-ton ladder truck — tipped on its side, trapping Boone and her bike beneath it. Ten firefighters were injured in the collision, but none as seriously as Boone, who lingered two weeks in critical condition in Memorial Hermann Hospital before succumbing to head injuries. (One of the fire trucks had run a red light, and the other was speeding, but the real kicker is that they were responding to a nonemergency call.)

Both the arts and cycling communities were devastated. Boone rode her bicycle everywhere she went, often between her jobs at the Houston Center for Photography and a Montrose boutique. It was her chosen exclusive mode of transport, explains her close friend Jen Bryan. "People had offered to give her cars, but she always said no." Her mother, Linda Zapalac of Austin, said that when given the option between a car or a bike in high school, Boone (and her brother) chose a bike.

Zapalac says that bike-riding was no hobby for Boone. It was just the way she lived her life. "She didn't go on long rides in the country," she says. "She used it to get from point A to point B."


cycling fatalities

In short, she was a purist, a bike rider's bike rider, a true-life martyr to the cause, and thus a worthy recipient of Houston's second "ghost bike," after the one dedicated to Cisco Rios. Like the roadside white crosses that memorialize those killed by drunk drivers, ghost bikes remind people of bicyclists killed by cars. (In the case of ghost bikes, there is no requirement that the motorist be drunk.) As their name suggests, ghost bikes take the form of a bicycle painted white, which is then mounted near where the bicyclist died. Boone's is right there at the corner of Dunlavy and Westheimer, where her friends, supporters and even a few strangers have come by and dropped off flowers and other tributes.

"At first it freaked me out a little bit," says Zapalac. "But now I think it's a real good memorial for her. Lots of people go there to hang out. I think if she were alive, she would have liked the idea of a ghost bike for someone else."

Bryan says the exceedingly modest Boone would have been abashed had she know this was in store for her. Still, she knows Boone would have loved it, if for no other reason than its positive environmental impact. "Now when people want to remember her, they can pay tribute right there instead of driving out to a cemetery beyond the Beltway."

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