I've paraphrased the ordinance presented to the Albuquerque City Council for extending the protection of road side memorials or Descansos to Ghost Bikes. Without the legalese, this is a pretty good explanation of how important the suddenly sacred places have become in this region.
City wants to protect ghost bikes: krqe.comThe state of New Mexico describes a descanso as “a memorial, placed alongside a public road right of way to memorialize the death of one or more persons.” In 2007 the New Mexico State Legislature passed a law making it illegal to remove or desecrate a descanso. Descansos are constructed where someone has died as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Descansos are accepted in New Mexican culture as folk art. Ghost Bikes are such memorials. Ghost Bikes are citizen initiated decorative expressions of remembrance dedicated to cyclists killed by automobiles. Ghost Bikes are infused with culturally symbolic meaning through color and texture. Descansos and Ghost Bikes have been constructed all over Albuquerque and can usually be found on sidewalks near the site of the accident.
The name "descansos" comes from a Spanish term that means "place of rest." The site Descansos.org has some good research on the subject along with photos and stories behind specific sites.
Oh, and the ordinance passed. It is now illegal in the City of Albuquerque to mess with Ghost Bikes. "The desecration or willful defacing or destroying. . " of a Ghost Bike is a criminal offence.