Dominic Socie isn’t sure what exactly compelled him to create the bike — the one on the shoulder of the Cross Island Parkway near U.S. 278.
But after hearing about the death of his cycling friend Dr. Jeff Garske, Socie soon went to work creating a local version of a memorial known globally as a “ghost bike.”
“It was like I didn’t even know. It just was on my mind,” said Socie, 32, a firefighter with the Hilton Head Fire and Rescue Division and a part-time employee at The Bike Doctor on the island's south end.
“I just took one of my extra bikes and ... spray-painted it, put it out there at the site,” Socie said Tuesday. The site is on the Cross Island Parkway in the area of Marshland Road, where Garske was killed in a hit-and-run accident by an alleged drunken driver on Aug. 18.
Socie added touches to the bicycle such as attaching black and red markers to the handlebars so people could leave messages. “Heaven has a safe rider now,” reads one on the bike’s right fork, one of numerous remembrances of Garske.
Ghost bikes serve as “small and somber memorials for bicyclists who are killed or hit on the street,” reads a description on the website ghostbikes.org. The group also supports “cyclists’ right to safe travel.” The first ghost bikes were created in St. Louis in 2003, the group’s web site says. There are now more than 630 of them in more than 200 locations around the world.
Socie said the local memorial was created to “honor Jeff, or “Doc” as we called him and ... to raise awareness. It’s also a way to say to motorists, “Hey, share the road with us,’” Socie said.
Cyclists, Socie wanted to make clear, are not only allowed to use the road in the area where the hit and run occurred, but sometimes must do so. Serious riders are sometimes forced to use the road because the bike path can be populated by slower, inexperienced riders.
“It's 30 miles an hour for people who ride as hard as we do on bike paths. Well, we’ll kill a 3-year-old girl on a bike path (if we hit them) so we have to ride on the road.”
One of Socie's riding mates is Bill Brewer, an engineer, member of the Hilton Head Island Bicycle Advisory Committee, and a board member of the Columbia-based Palmetto Cycling Coalition. The coalition’s mission is, in part, to make the state “bicycle and pedestrian friendly, by improving safety through better access and education.”
Brewer said bicyclists have the “same duties and responsibility and (the) same rights as other vehicles,” he said.
“Being a firefighter, I see both sides of it,” Socie said of what Brewer termed the “tremendous amount of hostility” that exists toward cyclists from many drivers.
“I see how dangerous it is and I see what’s going on and sometimes it’s easy to just go into your day. ... Maybe a white bicycle there or on the side of the road will just pop into someone’s mind. ...”
He hopes it makes people think.
“It’s not pretend. This is not a video game where we can hit reset .... A human being went out to ride his bike, not cause trouble to anyone, and died because of it.”