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Champion cyclist killed in San Francisco gets Burning Man sendoff

The ghost bike memorializing cyclist Ethan Boyes was brought to Burning Man’s Temple. | Source: Courtesy photo

A ghost bike memorial to cyclist Ethan Boyes—who was killed in an April crash in San Francisco’s Presidio—was set aflame at Burning Man after disappearing months ago, according to multiple friends of the late track cycling champion.

The ghost bike, painted white with flowers scattered around it, was placed at the site of the car crash that killed 44-year-old Boyes on Arguello Boulevard just south of Washington Boulevard.

But in May, the Presidio Trust, the nonprofit in charge of San Francisco’s Presidio, told the friends of Boyes who placed the memorial that it had to be removed by early June, according to Boyes’ friend James Grady.

The ghost bike memorializing Ethan Boyes, a cyclist killed in an April crash, was removed in June. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

"As the memorial was up for three months, it was looking very disheveled," Presidio Trust spokesperson Lisa Petrie explained in an email. "At that point, the trust had a conversation with the family and friends about taking it down. It was mutually agreed that it would stay up until June 4 for the memorial ride, but all agreed it was time to take it down following that."

Grady said he removed the bike on June 4, and after that, it changed hands among multiple friends of Boyes before being burned at the Temple, a huge artwork stacked with mementos that are burned after the Man is burned. The Temple burn is meant to memorialize loved ones.

“It’s like a very silent thing, while burning the man is like a big party,” said Boyes' friend Sydney Parcell.

Parcell said another friend of Boyes, Adam De La Rosa, brought the bike to Burning Man. De La Rosa did not respond to a request for comment.

A bicycle painted white and adorned with flowers leans against a tree.
A 'ghost bike' memorial is seen at the Presidio intersection where cyclist Ethan Boyes was killed on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. | Source: Jesse Rogala/The Standard

‘It’s Been a Terrible Loss’

Five months after Boyes’ death, his loss is still painful to those who knew him.

“His family misses him terribly,” Boyes’ mother, Penny Boyes, told The Standard. “It’s been a terrible loss.”

Parcell said she remembers the laughter and jokes Boyes always brought during their time together. 

“While still being the best [cyclist] in the world,” Parcell said.

An attorney for Boyes' family, Shaana Rahman, said in a text: “The family thought the memorial was a truly beautiful and powerful gesture and a sincere tribute to Ethan. If its removal was necessary, it’s perfectly understandable.”

Two people stand beside a white-painted bike at a roadside memorial adorned with flowers.
Sydney Parcell, right, and Wagner Sousa on April 6 place a track cycling world champion jersey at a memorial near where friend Ethan Boyes was fatally struck by a vehicle earlier in the week. | Source: Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

The Presidio Trust announced road improvements to protect cyclists would break ground in September along the stretch of Arguello Boulevard where Boyes was killed. It has already installed plastic bollards between the road and the bike lane. 

READ MORE: The San Francisco Streets Where You’re Most Likely To Be Hit by a Car

San Francisco cycling activist Luke Bornheimer said those improvements are not enough. He wants protected bike lanes on both sides of Arguello Boulevard, including where Boyes was killed.

Bornheimer said the ghost bike was a reminder that someone was killed. And he said he feels frustrated that the trust hadn't done more to make the area safer.

Deadly Crash

Boyes was renowned as a USA Cycling Masters Champion and the holder of the national record in the "flying start" 500-meter time trial when he was killed in the deadly crash.

Nextdoor user Stephanie Wald said in an April post that she “witnessed a horrific accident” in which “a speeding car heading north [on Arguello Boulevard] careened into the opposite lane and hit a cyclist” who “slammed headfirst into the windshield.”

A man in a white cycling jersey and gold medal around his neck holds his right hand over his heart while clutching a bouquet of flowers in the other.
Ethan Boyes accepts his championship medal at the UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships Men 40-44 Time Trial Awards Ceremony at the Velo Sports Center in Carson, California, on Sept. 24, 2022. | Source: Courtesy Craig Huffman/USA Cycling

United States Park Police said officers responded to a crash between a car and a bicyclist on Arguello Boulevard south of Washington Boulevard at approximately 4 p.m. on April 4.

Park police said Boyes’ death is being investigated but would not share any further details. The department has faced criticism and accusations of being secretive about the driver's identity.

The highest number of San Francisco cyclist deaths recorded were in 2015 and 2016, with four killed each year. In 2022 one bicyclist, an 80-year-old, was killed near Fisherman’s Wharf.