Memorial 'ghost' bicycle appears at Longwood fatal accident scene

By Brock Parker
Globe Correspondent / October 11, 2009

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While Brookline police continue to investigate the cause of a fatal bicycle accident that killed a 22-year-old Emmanuel College graduate last month, a ‘‘ghost bike’’ has mysteriously been placed at the scene of the crash.

The all-white bicycle, adorned with flowers and a memorial placard for Tracy Milillo, is latched to a street sign near 29 Longwood Ave., where the native of Holbrook, N.Y., crashed while riding her bicycle on Sept. 9.

Captain Michael Gropman of the Brookline police said last week that police are not filing charges against a local motorist who had apparently thought he hit Milillo that night.

Forensic tests have shown that the man’s vehicle did not collide with Milillo’s bicycle, Gropman said.

‘‘We know it did not,’’ Gropman said. ‘‘We’re not sure why the bike fell.’’

Milillo was found unconscious at the scene at about 7 p.m. that night, Gropman said; with her was the motorist, who had stopped after noticing that she had fallen. Milillo was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she died from her injuries within 48 hours.

She suffered blunt trauma to her head, and police are awaiting the results of a toxicology exam on Milillo as part of their investigation seeking the cause of the crash. Gropman said Milillo was wearing a heavy backpack, and he speculated that she may have lost her balance, or the bicycle might have had a mechanical problem.

He said the day of Milillo’s accident was supposed to be her last in Boston. Her parents were coming to take her back to her home in Holbrook.

David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said the painted bicycle placed alongside Longwood Avenue is part of a memorial tradition surfacing at the sites of fatal bicycle accidents around the country.

Traditionally, Watson said, ghost bikes mysteriously appear at crash scenes. He said the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition had nothing to do with placing the bike there in Milillo’s honor, but he called the memorials effective tools for bringing attention to fatal bicycle accidents.

‘‘They definitely get everyone’s attention,’’ Watson said.

Gropman said Brookline police have seen flowers at fatal crashes, as well as at homicides, but this is the first time that he has seen a ghost bike.