Ghost bike placed for slain upland cyclist Tom Thomas – Daily Bulletin
A group of us stand on the sidewalk of Monte Vista Avenue in Montclair on Saturday morning, April 2, near the Pacific Electric Trail, awaiting the arrival of a ghost bike in memory of Tom Thomas.
The beloved Upland man, 68, was struck a few feet away on February 24 while riding his bike and died of his injuries two days later.
The ghost bike is not here yet and no one knows where it will come from. But the sidewalk near the bike path is a likely place to place it, which is why we are grouped there.
Everyone here has a connection to Tom. Some knew him from the municipal service. Some are neighbors. Many are cycling friends. More than three dozen had gathered that morning at Competitive Edge Cyclery, where Tom had been a customer, to go to the event in his honor.
“It’s a family of cyclists,” friend Rich Mayo told me, decked out in cycling gear, an hour earlier in the store parking lot.
When Mayo and Greg Armstrong founded the annual Tour de Foothills race in 2005, Tom was the first person they invited to attend. He was a member of the city council at the time and known throughout the city as a cyclist, as I wrote about last month.
“I knew he would bring visibility,” Mayo said. “He was on it from day one.”
The last Tour de Foothills took place last November. Some 1,500 people took part in a hike that, for the diehards, went to Pasadena and back, a 100-mile loop. Tom, as usual, volunteered as the ride marshal, following the peloton to offer help to anyone who needed it.
“He was the only person who had every jersey from every Tour de Foothills,” Mayo said. “He felt compelled to get them all.”
Cycling may be about freedom, but on a bike, danger always lurks for distracted or irritable motorists.
Tom had had three accidents over the years, starting in 1990 when he was sworn in on crutches after a car spun in front of him as he descended a slope.
On February 24, he was traveling south on Monte Vista, waiting to turn left from a cornering pocket, when a motorcyclist apparently came at him from behind without stopping and collided with him. Tom died two days later of internal injuries. The motorcyclist was also hospitalized, but I don’t know the details or the outcome.
Mark Ceccarelli said that in his 35 years as owner of Competitive Edge he had lost half a dozen customers in crashes, three of which were due to a malicious driver in Claremont who deliberately hit them. He had never heard of a motorcyclist hitting a cyclist.
“It makes you more aware,” he said of any deaths. “It’s the car drifting because they’re texting. You just have to roll defensively like someone is going to hit you.
Riding with other people is good practice, both men said.
“There is safety in numbers,” Mayo said. “When there are several cyclists, you are more visible.”
An hour later, along Monte Vista, our small group grew larger as the cyclists began to arrive.
Upland Mayor Bill Velto and I are talking. A small park comes downtown on a vacant lot near the old Mitchell’s Plumbing store along the bike path. Public toilets are already open as a kind of relay for trail users. Naming the square after Tom, Velto says, “is a nice way to honor him.”
And then, suddenly, a man wearing sunglasses is carrying a bicycle frame, painted white, through Monte Vista in the crosswalk. Everyone is silent.
He leans the bike against the fence along the sidewalk. From his backpack, he pulls out a chain and attaches the bike to the fence. He adds dried flowers.
A ghost bike is installed this morning in Montclair for Tom Thomas under the gaze of his wife, Ann, with her hand over her mouth. Column to come. pic.twitter.com/fjyM2xHih2
—David Allen (@DavidAllen909) April 2, 2022
Tom’s wife of 47 years, Ann, stands nearby, holding a red rose in one hand. Briefly affected, she brings her other hand to her mouth. Two people comfort her.
A girl, Elizabeth, kneels down to pull some weeds on her bicycle. Ann can’t help laughing, because Tom was an avid gardener. “You are your father’s daughter right now,” she said.
People move in to add items to the roadside memorial: cut flowers, keepsakes, a framed pencil portrait of Tom.
Andreas Morales has retired. He’s the man who brought the bike. He lives in West Covina and is part of a group of volunteers who provide ghost bikes to accident scenes.
“It’s more of a culture that we’ve created because of these deaths. We had to work as a unit to raise awareness,” Morales tells me. “It’s like honoring a brother.”
If there were no ghost motorcycles to serve as memorials, the dead might be forgotten, he says.
Usually the bikes are placed in the middle of the night. When they are first seen the next morning, having appeared out of nowhere, the mystery gives them impact, he explains. In this case, people reached out to him to have his installation part of a ceremony, and he honored their wishes.
I tell him Tom was a friend. “He was a friend to everyone, it seems,” Morales said, pointing to the crowd of around 80 people. “My condolences.”
I join the group. Mayo starts talking about ghost bikes.
“It’s a reminder that someone lost their life here because someone wasn’t paying attention,” he said.
“Tom has touched a lot of people, as evidenced by the turnout here,” he continues. “He was a great man who cared deeply about his community. He was just a calm, steady hand in everything he did.
Velto urges people to be careful on the road.
I turn around and notice that Morales has slipped away, as mysteriously as he appeared.
The ghost bike is there for now – please respect it – and the mayor says it could later be permanently installed in the square. Before Mayo invites everyone to the bike shop for hot dogs and souvenirs, Ann speaks briefly.
“Thanks for coming,” Ann tells us all. “Tom was loved. I just wish it was here instead of the ghost bike.
A man named Donald McKnight captured Fontana’s imagination for decades as he walked south on Sierra Avenue each morning, carrying a load of bags around his shoulders and returning north on Sierra at dusk. Little is known about him, but he died recently. A candlelight vigil was announced for 6 p.m. Sunday in front of the Stater Bros. at 8228 Sierra Ave. where he often stopped.
David Allen carries that weight Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Email [email protected], call 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.