Are those pesky abandoned bikes causing an eyesore to your district and taking up valuable space?

We’ve all seen them. These abandoned bikes obviously have not seen their owner in a very long time and each time you see one its sad bike carcass has become more derelict. Lately, CDA came across the issue with a recent project so we thought we’d look into it.

We discovered that, especially in NYC, it is very difficult to get a bike removed and that both the process and the requirements are rigorous and inflexible.

In New York City for example, the bike must be affixed to public property and must meet 3 out of 5 of the following criteria:

  • The appearance is crushed or not usable;
  • Have parts missing from bicycle other than seat and front wheel;
  • Have flat tires or missing both tires;
  • Handlebars and pedals are damaged, or the fork, frame or rims are bent;
  • 75 percent of bicycle is rusted.

But as WNYC noted the process to report abandoned bikes is solely by phone so there is no official online or digital submissions process and calling in a complaint “takes about 14 minutes and involves speaking with two operators.” LA, on the other hand, has an online submission and appears to make the process more user friendly.

Most college campuses are very liberal with mass removals of abandoned bikes each summer. Bicycles are first tagged as abandoned and given two weeks to be moved before being impounded and then finally given away or salvaged 90 days later. The policy is similar in Toronto where even bikes that look operable but reported are tagged with a two week notice and removed if not relocated. According to Chicago’s city code, an abandoned bike can be removed after being tagged for just a week.

Questioning how your city handles abandoned bikes?  It can be as simple as Google’ing “city of ____” + “bike removal.” A little investigation, either by internet or 311, can get you on the way to clearing your commercial district of a long overdue abandoned bike.

Sometimes in the end you have to look at the problem and see it from a different angle. Adel Souto of New York has made this topic into an art form, check out his blog.