Tony Diaz 'ghost bike' removed from UT campus

UT student James Lentz is President of the Campus Bike Alliance. He and some friends in the Austin cycling community helped put together a "ghost bike" for Tony Diaz after he was killed by a Cap Metro bus in January.

"Got a bike from the Orange Bike Project, they donated an old frame, we spray painted it, we brought it out here and set it up.  We had some flowers put around it," Lentz said.

Diaz was riding his bike on San Jacinto through the UT campus after a shift at FOX 7's downtown studio. 40-year-old Cap Metro bus driver Mindi Taylor Stafford was driving northbound behind Tony. 

"At some point the bus left its designated lane of travel and with the bus drifting to the right the front of the bus actually collided with Tony on the bicycle," said UT Police Chief David Carter last month.

Stafford was arrested last month. "The driver appeared to drive in a reckless manner which ultimately caused the death of Tony," Carter said. Changes to that stretch of road through campus are desperately needed according to the cycling community.  

In 2013, the university approved a campus master plan that included a bicycle path on San Jacinto. But that hasn't happened yet. "They could remove some of the angle-in parking there where Tony was riding when he was killed and they could put in a protected bike lane there," Lentz said.

Lentz says the ghost bike was placed on San Jacinto as a memorial for Tony and a reminder to drivers to be cautious. Now the ghost bike is gone.

He says the university instructed his group to remove it. "Yeah it was really rough taking it down. It felt like I was kind of erasing his death which is like the opposite of what I want to do," Lentz said.

Lentz says there were layers of campus bureaucracy involved in putting it there.

He says Student Affairs gave them approval for a two-week installation.

The bike was unintentionally left there beyond the time frame. "Someone from the Dean's office contacted me and said 'it's still out there it needs to be removed immediately,'" Lentz said.

So the question is: how long should a ghost bike stay in place?  

In Tony's case, according to James, at least until there are some major changes made to the road.

"My opinion is that the best memorial for Tony would be the University fixing the street so it doesn't happen again.  When I put it up I'd hope that it would stay there at least until that happened.  I think part of the purpose that a ghost bike in that spot would serve is that there are still things that need to be done," Lentz said.

UT Spokesperson J.B. Bird tells FOX 7 the students knew it was a temporary exhibit. "We are grateful to host the ghost bike exhibit here as a way to honor Tony Diaz and to promote safety awareness.  To bring something positive out of this tragedy," Bird said.  

Bird says the Dean of Students has encouraged the group to reach out to the Campus Planning Committee for a permanent solution. "But looking long-term they're going to want to talk to the Campus Planning Committee and figure out what's going to be the best thing to serve the campus and the goals they're pursuing and the student body is pursuing long-term," Bird said.

On April 10th, there is a Memorial Silent Ride for another cyclist killed near UT recently.  

Click here for that information.



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