It is a memorial unlike most, decorated with the standard flowers and photography, as well as reflectors and spare parts. Chained to the tree barrier outside Malachy’s pub on West 72nd Street near Columbus Avenue, the memorial dedicates the spot where “Speedie,” a Free Spirit-brand bicycle, was stolen on July 27.
Bike owner Betsy Johnson, herself a free spirit (though not the clothing designer), is among the many who have their bikes stolen in New York City each year. However, in the days after the loss of her beloved bicycle, her reaction was not to pray for harm to come to the thief, but to create this quirky memorial emblazoned with quotes, photos-including Speedie’s hero, Lance Armstrong-and admonishments to always wear a helmet.
“The memorial is my way of making people happy,” Johnson said.
In late August, almost a month after Speedie’s disappearance, a memorial service at the scene of the crime was held in honor of the bike, which Johnson notes, “Carried [her] through a breezy dreamland.” Twenty of Johnson’s closest friends noshed on Rice-Krispie treats as a Tibetan monk spoke about non-attachment. Someone even left a memorial candle, though in typical New York fashion, it was stolen, too.
The memorial has become a local attraction. “I can’t tell you how many people I see taking pictures of [it],” said Dorian Yeager, a bartender and server at Malachy’s. The memorial and the reactions it elicits is, for Yeager, “The most fun I’ve had with a tragedy for 30 years.”
Now, two months after Speedie vanished, Johnson has purchased a gold 10-speed christened “Goldini,” to transport her around town from her home in the Bronx. Besides the subway, the bike is her main form of transportation. While she still mourns her lost bicycle, the memorial creation process has paid karmic dividends.
“It has brought me more connections and friendships, and I feel I am spreading happiness,” Johnson said with a broad smile.
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