Bike Parking Bad News

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Late June in New York City, 2004. Gentle breezes carried the
scent of
linden trees, and bicyclists were everywhere,
forging a real feeling of community (rare for a big city). But then
a bunch of bikes vanished from the L train subway station, and when
we opened up our Bike Space, people walked in and told us about bike
thefts in different areas of the city. Was it perhaps a new gang of
organized thieves? Or could it have been early adopters of the
Bic® Pen U-lock exploit?

TIME'S UP! interviewed local merchants in areas where bikes were
missing and discovered that these new thieves were wearing police
uniforms. We immediately informed other bicycle organizations, who
had trouble believing us, to put it lightly. You see, when the police
were cutting people's locks off their bicycles, they left no prior or
subsequent notice, which made it almost impossible to prove what was
happening.

Police cutting bike locks, Sep. 24, 2004. Video by Rebecca Bray.
Police cut the lock to seize an "abandoned" bike while its owner,
forbidden to unlock the bike, videotapes the scene.

 

We took our case to the community, who brought us these photos and
videos of bikes being seized after a Critical Mass. Police had to admit this was occurring.
Prominent civil rights attorney Norman Siegel took on the case of
five bicyclists whose bikes had been seized by the police, and the
videos converted the nonbelievers.

Corruption of Policy

We are expressly permitted to lock our bikes to bike racks, but it
is not illegal for us to lock them to other street furniture so
long as we're not abandoning them or blocking pedestrian or vehicular
traffic. The city has the authority to cut locks and remove bikes
if they're abandoned or obstructing people, but unfortunately this
reasonable-sounding policy is being used as pretext for seizing bikes
that were neither abandoned nor in anyone's way. Police have been
abusing this authority.

Another photo taken by the owner of a not-abandoned bike.

Worse still, the policy leaves you no way to find out who took your
bike. How many bikes are being taken by the the city? Nobody knows.
This corruption of policy should end immediately. The city should
address our bike parking crisis with many more racks and prohibit
its employees from abusing their authority to remove bicycles. The
cutting of bike locks should not occur except for the most egregious
of offenses.

We are working with other groups and the city to handle "abandoned"
bikes in a more reasonable manner.

Keep your eyes open; this could be happening in your city. Ask a
lot of questions. Write things down. Bike mechanics in bike stores
see and hear a lot ...

 

Bikes imprisoned, perhaps on trumped-up charges. Photo by Jym Dyer.
Bicycles at NYPD facility in Greenpoint. Is your
"stolen" bike in here?