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Not a Good Place for a Tribute

roadside memorials, ghost bike, roadside shrine

The ad-hoc roadside shrine thing is a fairly new. It’s a public message erected without public sanction as a way for the bereaved to announce their loss to the traveling public. They are a personal visual message. Do they convey the sentiment intended? What do people think when they pass by a home-made memorial?

The people who create roadside memorials are experiencing real grief and sadness. Every roadside death is significant. There is an appropriate time and place for public memorializing, and other ways to commemorate a life than adding objects near the road. If the phenomenon of roadside memorials grows, it can become a significant safety issue. The actual process of placing items in the rights of way is very dangerous. It involves parking a car on the shoulder and walking within the vulnerable clear zone without reflective safety gear and sometimes in the dark of night. Once items are placed, they can be distracting for drivers and potential fixed objects which can be hit by errant vehicles. Family members risk losing more loved ones by their physical presence in a very dangerous zone with a history of lost life.

Public agencies typically have a policy in place for dealing with unsolicited advertising, political signs, and memorial shrines. They will remove the shrines, usually after a few months, because they are both and aesthetic and safety distraction. They need to have restrictions for the use of roadside rights of way for the safety and welfare of the traveling public.

Just as it is inappropriate to build a shrine in a hospital room where someone passes away, it is wrong for the roadside. Rather than allowing people to locate temporary memorials where a loved one died, encourage them to tell the world how their deceased family member lived—by creating a scholarship, planting a tree in a park, or writing a story commemorating them. Include and implement a policy for roadside shrines, to quietly and quickly remove home-made memorials before they cause additional sadness. The roadside continues to be actively used, even after accidents occur.

Roadside Memorials