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Ghost bike memorial removed from Richmond road: ‘It bothers me’

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Patty Kruszewski spends a lot of time by her daughter's grave in historic Hollywood Cemetery. A small stone under a Japanese Maple tree marks the final resting place for Lanie
Kruszewski.

But almost as meaningful as her grave, is a roadside memorial along River Road in Richmond. It was put up anonymously the day after a hit-and-run driver struck and killed the 24-year-old woman who was riding her bike home from work July 29, 2012.

"It's a very special place, just as special as this place where Lanie is buried because it's the place she was last alive," Patty Kruszewski said.

But over the weekend, Patty received news that the "ghost bike" memorial had been taken down by a homeowner who recently built a house adjacent to the property where Lanie was killed six years ago.

"It bothers me," Kruszewski said. "It's not really his right to take it."

Kruszewski said the homeowner contacted her a year ago, asking if another memorial could go up in its place. He explained that the memorial was a hazard and not aesthetically appropriate for the location.

"He doesn't like the look of it and that bothers me," Kruszewski said. "It's not meant to be beautiful, it's meant to be a memorial to my daughter and an educator of sorts, a reminder to people."

Thousands of cars pass the memorial weekly and it can remind drivers to be safe and stay alert while driving, she said.

While each locality has its own regulations regarding roadside memorials, unless they become eyesores or pose a hazard, they are generally left alone.

On Saturday, Kruszewski said she received an email from the homeowner telling her he was removing the ghost bike in order to do some landscaping. She said by the time she responded on Sunday, the memorial was gone.

Because the bike memorial was on city property, Kruszewski said she's hoping to get a permit to allow a permanent memorial. She said she's not opposed to a sign to remind people of Lanie's legacy and to share the road with cyclists. Lanie was an avid cyclist and loved the outdoors.

"The ghost bike means a lot to a lot of people," she said.

While Kruszewski said she'll always have her daughter's grave, she also hoped to have a memorial to visit every July 29, in memory of a daughter who lived to help others.

"Some people say they say a prayer when they pass, I blow her kisses," she said.

The homeowner who Kruszewski said removed the bike has not yet responded with a comment on the situation.

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