STOCKTON — “Bless all who ride,” Deacon Stephen Bentley proclaimed during his prayer dedication Sunday over the city’s first ghost bike on the outskirts of southeast Stockton where 53-year-old Robert Tristan was killed in 2016 by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle home.

“Ghost bikes serve as a reminder of our brothers and sisters who were struck down while pedaling. They are placed in areas of the city where riders have fallen, as a remembrance of those who have died, offer comfort to those who mourn, and restore hope to the broken-hearted,” Bentley said during the brief ceremony attended by Tristan’s tight-knit family and their supporters.

Bentley, with St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in downtown Stockton, runs the church’s bicycle ministry and as such, operates HUB — Helping Urban Bicyclists — that provides refurbished bikes to the homeless and other struggling residents for whatever they can afford.

After learning about the concept of ghost bikes and with the knowledge that at least four cyclists have died this year alone in encounters with motor vehicles in Stockton, Bentley — an avid cyclist himself — wants to establish the memorials to raise awareness of bike safety and remind motorists to share the road.

To create the ghost bike, he strips down a bicycle frame, paints it a flat white and places a plaque on the front with information about the victim who died near the site. Sunday’s first dedication was to remember Tristan, who was found lifeless in a ditch off the north side of Farmington Road just west of Highway 99 on Jan. 29, 2016.

Whoever the driver was that struck Tristan that night remains unknown, adding to the family’s grief.

“There’s somebody out there that knows something,” said Helen Mendoza, a family friend and victim’s rights advocate.

“I’ve been with this family during this tragedy, and during this time of grief they have always remembered their brother. They carry Robert and other victims in their hearts,” Mendoza said.

For many months after Tristan’s death, his sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews would stand along the lonely spot on Farmington Road on the 29th of each month waving at passers-by while holding posters offering a reward for information.

Paula Rodriguez, Tristan’s sister, said Sunday authorities are no closer to identifying a suspect than they were 2½ years ago.

As for the permanent installation of the ghost bike as a memorial to her brother — it should be in place by next weekend — Rodriguez said, “Know that we truly appreciate this.” Another sister, Juana Marquez, said, “This helps us remember Robert alive on his bike.”

Ruben Tristan Jr., 34, who was very close to his Uncle Robert, regularly maintains the current memorial at the site and with the help of another uncle will install the ghost bike in its permanent home this week.

And as another remembrance, Ruben Tristan proudly shows a stunning portrait tattoo of his uncle on his upper right arm by well-known Stockton artist Henry Coronilla.

“When we choose to take a bike instead of a car,” Bentley said before calling for a moment of silence for all who have died in Stockton while riding, “when we choose to speak up instead of staying silent, when we choose to advocate instead of complacency, when we choose to plant flowers instead of cursing the pavement, when we choose singing instead of yelling, remember us, holy one, of Robert.”

People interested in learning more about the ghost bike project can call Bentley at (209) 663-9955. Tristan’s family noted that a reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and asked people to call authorities at 911 or Crime Stoppers to remain anonymous at (209) 946-0600. 

Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or jgoldeen@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/goldeenblog and on Twitter @JoeGoldeen.