Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ghosts of Tampa bicyclists linger in mind and metal


Each Friday morning, at the exact minute her bicyclist sister Diane was hit and killed on a Tampa sidewalk, JoAnn Vega stands at the street corner and rings three cowbells. Her sister loved the Rays.

Tuesdays, instead of meeting her daughter Diane for their once-weekly lunches, Amelia Vega visits the corner to tidy the memorial. She rearranges the candles and brings fresh flowers.

The corner belongs to Larry McGrath, an 82-year-old Tampa golf instructor who built the red concrete block house more than half a century ago. But, in a way, it also belongs to the Vegas.

Today, Diane Vega's family will install a white "ghost bike" on the corner of Spruce Street and Himes Avenue. It will point west, the direction Vega was heading Oct. 1 when a sport utility vehicle ran a red light and drove up onto the curb, killing her.

McGrath says he's honored to provide a spot for the bike. He hopes motorists will see it and slow down. Maybe they'll watch out for bicyclists, he said.

"There's been a lot of accidents," he said.

JoAnn Vega, who works for the St. Petersburg Times, hadn't considered putting up a ghost bike to memorialize her sister, an avid biker and public transportation advocate. But when Michelle Calonge approached her with the idea, she said yes.

Calonge's father opened Joe Haskins Bicycle Shop in Tampa in 1953. Diane Vega was a regular at the shop, chatting with the employees and asking that Haskins do the repairs.

"She was more than just a customer," Calonge said.

At least two other ghost bikes memorialize riders in Tampa and Hillsborough County.

One, installed at the southeast corner of Hyde Park Avenue and Brorein Street in August, marks the spot where LeRoy "Roy" Collins Jr., 75, a retired two-star admiral, was hit by another SUV on July 29.

His bike bears 14 small painted stars to recognize Collins' family. Two welded stars pay tribute to his military service

Another bike was erected last month on 30th Street and Pine Drive to mark the spot where a hit-and-run driver killed University of South Florida researcher Kayoko Ishizuka, 30, as she rode home from the lab on Sept. 25.

Hers is a women's bike with elegant curved handles.

Vega's bike will bear a plaque: Diane Marie Vega, December 30, 1956 – Oct. 1, 2010, ride with the angels.

The bikes are personal memorials honoring the dead, but they're also symbols, part of an international movement aimed at reminding motorists to watch out for bicyclists.

Ghost bikes appeared in St. Louis in 2003. The practice spread to Pittsburgh, then New York City.

In St. Petersburg, one went up in November 2008 for Michael "Frankie" Bentley, 20, who died when a Jeep Liberty hit him as he rode along Gandy Boulevard with a friend.

Bicycling advocate Alan Snel said the ghost bikes are useful reminders to share the road, but he hopes Hillsborough won't need more.

It was difficult to see three bikes go up in just two months, he said.

"I hope we can all educate ourselves and create an awareness that the roads are for everyone," he said. "Bicyclists are co-users of the road, just like everybody else."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Ghosts of Tampa bicyclists linger in mind and metal 10/29/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 30, 2010 7:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  2. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  3. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]
  4. Obamacare repeal bill offers flexibility and uncertainty


    The latest Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act would grant states much greater flexibility and all but guarantee much greater uncertainty for tens of millions of people.

  5. Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire 'private briefings' on 2016 campaign, report says


    Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, the Washington Post reports.

    Paul Manafort, then Donald Trump's campaign chairman, talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. [Associated Press]