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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    "Abandoned" bikes

    Not sure if A&S is the right place, but I figure this discussion may fall under the Advocacy portion.

    When (if ever) is it ok to take a bike that appears to be abandoned? I posted my opinion about this on my blog today, but I wanted to hear what others have to say.

    Here's the story: Two teenagers are out at 1AM, and find a locked up bike with in a somewhat remote location. According to their description, it had flat tires and appeared to have been out there a while, and looked abused. Turns out that it belonged to a college student that went missing two days prior. And it was four days later that they saw a photo on the news and realized they had stolen a bike that belonged to the missing student. At this time, they turned it in.

    They were not charged with the theft, even though they also unwittingly tampered with evidence. Obviously, it was not ok to take this bike. Is it ever ok to take an "abandoned" bike?

  2. #2
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    My main issue is how would you ever know it is truly abandoned?

    You could see a bike sit for a year, never getting used, only to find out it belonged to someone in the Army who had been sent to Iraq for a year. Did he leave it in the best place? Maybe not. But did he abandon it?

    Bottom line, I don't take anything that isn't mine.

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  3. #3
    grungepit grungepit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    If it's not yours, it's not yours.
    Duh.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Yeah, I don't really see any time that it's ok to take and keep a bike you might find. In this case, turning it in to the police would have been the wise thing to do.

  5. #5
    livin' the nightmare syn0n's Avatar
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    There are some clearly abandoned bikes where I park. All that's left of one is a front wheel and the frame, locked to a rack. I think people just leave 'em after others steal parts. It has been there for at least 7-8 months, probably longer. Last week the university police put a tag saying it would be removed in a few days if no one moves it themselves.

  6. #6
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Interesting question. My police department seems to consider any bike that's left unattended is abandoned.

    I had a cheap Giant MTB stolen this June. Strangely, where the Giant had been, next to its cut cable lock, was lying a vintage Fuji 10 speed. (It was in cherry condition, and I'm sure worth more than the Giant.)

    I called the cops partly to report the theft, but mostly because I wanted to see if the Fuji could be returned to its rightful owner. The cop, when he arrived an hour later, agreed that the thief had undoubtedly left the Fuji behind when he stole my Giant. He wouldn't even take a report on my stolen bike, and he told me there was no way in hell that the owner of the Fuji would ever be found. I asked what he was going to do about the Fuji. "Nothing I can do. I don't want to put it in my trunk so I'm just gonna leave it here. Finder's keepers."

    I think what he was really saying is that any bike that's unattended is abandoned, even if it's locked, and it's OK for anybody who comes along to take the "abandoned" bike. Finder's keepers! It left a bad taste in my bike, even though I did ride away on the Fuji, with the cop sitting there watching me take a bike that he knew wasn't mine.


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  7. #7
    pj7
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    The real question is: If a bike has been clearly abandoned, why in the hell would you want to take it in the first place?
    A bike that has been "clearly abandoned" to me would be rusted all to hell and back, missing a few pieces, covered in various bodily fluids of woodland creatures, and would cost more to make it rideable again than it would to purchase a low end Trek. So why would anyone in their right mind take such a thing?
    If the bike were a $1500 bike that appeared to be abandoned, it'd be best to call the cops and report a "possible" missing person, because that would make more sense than the bike being abandoned.

    It's like the difference between finding a ratty old wallet with noting inside it compared to finding a nice hand stitched leather wallet with money and credit cards inside.

    I see houses in Detroit all the time that have been sitting empty for many, many years. Beautiful homes that are really a work of art. It's no more moral to illegally move into that house because "it's a shame to let such a beautiful house go to waste" than it is to take a bike and tell yourself "someone should use this beautiful thing and not let it sit here and rust".
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  8. #8
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pj7 View Post
    The real question is: If a bike has been clearly abandoned, why in the hell would you want to take it in the first place?
    A bike that has been "clearly abandoned" to me would be rusted all to hell and back, missing a few pieces, covered in various bodily fluids of woodland creatures, and would cost more to make it rideable again than it would to purchase a low end Trek. So why would anyone in their right mind take such a thing?
    If the bike were a $1500 bike that appeared to be abandoned, it'd be best to call the cops and report a "possible" missing person, because that would make more sense than the bike being abandoned.

    It's like the difference between finding a ratty old wallet with noting inside it compared to finding a nice hand stitched leather wallet with money and credit cards inside.

    I see houses in Detroit all the time that have been sitting empty for many, many years. Beautiful homes that are really a work of art. It's no more moral to illegally move into that house because "it's a shame to let such a beautiful house go to waste" than it is to take a bike and tell yourself "someone should use this beautiful thing and not let it sit here and rust"
    .
    I don't know. I remember reading on BF a couple years ago a member found an unscratched frame in a dumpster, and it was a great CF frame, an Orbea or some such. Also, as you probably know, fellow inner-city dweller, a lot of thugs who steal bikes know nothing about their value. They like the blingy X-mart faux-suspension faux-chrome faux-MTB but turn up their noses at a great road bike. Like the guy who stole my old Giant and left me a decent Fuji that somebody would E-pay at least $200 for.


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  9. #9
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    pj--
    As for the great old houses in Detroit (I grew up in one that I think is abandoned now, only it was in Highland Park): Is it illegal to squat in an abandoned house? I have heard that it is illegal, but you can't go to jail for it, and if you squat they have to go through the whole eviction process to throw you out.


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  10. #10
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    pj--
    As for the great old houses in Detroit (I grew up in one that I think is abandoned now, only it was in Highland Park): Is it illegal to squat in an abandoned house? I have heard that it is illegal, but you can't go to jail for it, and if you squat they have to go through the whole eviction process to throw you out.
    I thought all of Highland Park was abandoned!
    Those are some beautiful houses down there though, it's such a pitty.
    I have heard the same thing about squatting and squatters rights. Though I'm not sure of the validity of it. It sounds reasonable given the various ways that our laws are interpeted though.
    I just tossed that analogy out there as a mirror to the statements I've seen on here where people say "but that bike was such a beauty back in its day, it would be a shame to leave it out there just to get destroyed." My take on it is that it's the rightful owners decision on what happens to their property, wether someone precieves it abandoned or not. That's not to say that if I see a nice stripped Rivendale frame tossed onto the side of a creekbed for a few months that I would not "save" it. I probably would. But I wouldn't kid myself by telling myself that I was doing "it" a favor. The fact would remain that I took something that was not mine and I did not follow due legal process to do so. But I'm a hypocrite by nature.

    [EDIT]
    One of the things I "heard" about squatters rights was that if the squatter had their mail forwarded to that house then it became a big legal issue. But if there was no paperwork at all showing that place as a residency then trespassing laws took over. This is only what I heard... and it kinda makes sense.
    Last edited by pj7; 09-09-07 at 10:26 PM.
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  11. #11
    i like mud discosaurus's Avatar
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    There are apparently abandoned bikes all over my college campus. They probably belong to someone, and even if they are going to rust out on the bike racks only to be tossed in a dumpster at graduation, they're not mine to take. If anything, I'd like to take some wrenches and chain lube to them to see if it might make the owners actually enjoy riding them.

  12. #12
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pj7 View Post
    I thought all of Highland Park was abandoned!
    Those are some beautiful houses down there though, it's such a pitty.
    I have heard the same thing about squatting and squatters rights. Though I'm not sure of the validity of it. It sounds reasonable given the various ways that our laws are interpeted though.
    I just tossed that analogy out there as a mirror to the statements I've seen on here where people say "but that bike was such a beauty back in its day, it would be a shame to leave it out there just to get destroyed." My take on it is that it's the rightful owners decision on what happens to their property, wether someone precieves it abandoned or not. That's not to say that if I see a nice stripped Rivendale frame tossed onto the side of a creekbed for a few months that I would not "save" it. I probably would. But I wouldn't kid myself by telling myself that I was doing "it" a favor. The fact would remain that I took something that was not mine and I did not follow due legal process to do so. But I'm a hypocrite by nature.

    [EDIT]
    One of the things I "heard" about squatters rights was that if the squatter had their mail forwarded to that house then it became a big legal issue. But if there was no paperwork at all showing that place as a residency then trespassing laws took over. This is only what I heard... and it kinda makes sense
    .
    I think if property is clearly abandoned, especially in a public place, and there's little chance of finding the rightful owner, it righteously is up for grabs. Bikes are tough because it's so hard to prove ownership of a bike. I buy most of my bikes second-hand from a pawn shop, and I assume that some were stolen, even though in Michigan pawned property must be reported to the police. But the police obviously don't care about bikes, so who knows? Bikes are like currency because it's hard to prove ownership. They have serial numbers, but the numbers aren't registered like a car's VIN. Unless you have a bill of sale with the serial number from a reputable shop, you really can't prove the bike is yours. OTOH, nobody else can prove it's their's, so it really does belong to the person who possesses it.

    There's a decent Schwinn MTB that's been locked to a bike rack by a restaurant near campus. It's been there since last summer. It's in a covered area and not even the chain is rusty. If I could get it unlocked, I would feel totally justified in taking it.


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  13. #13
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I think if property is clearly abandoned, especially in a public place, and there's little chance of finding the rightful owner, it righteously is up for grabs. Bikes are tough because it's so hard to prove ownership of a bike. I buy most of my bikes second-hand from a pawn shop, and I assume that some were stolen, even though in Michigan pawned property must be reported to the police. But the police obviously don't care about bikes, so who knows? Bikes are like currency because it's hard to prove ownership. They have serial numbers, but the numbers aren't registered like a car's VIN. Unless you have a bill of sale with the serial number from a reputable shop, you really can't prove the bike is yours. OTOH, nobody else can prove it's their's, so it really does belong to the person who possesses it.

    There's a decent Schwinn MTB that's been locked to a bike rack by a restaurant near campus. It's been there since last summer. It's in a covered area and not even the chain is rusty. If I could get it unlocked, I would feel totally justified in taking it.
    I'd probably have the same outlook if I didn't have the "history" I do. I'm sure you've seen me post about my past before so I'll not rehash. I'd be more apt to feel that way if I lived in an area that had alot of abandoned bikes like you do. But here all of the seemingly abandoned bikes are total rust buckets that I wouldn't waste my time by picking them up and tossing them in a dumpster.
    Just so you know though, I'm fairly certain that it is in Lapeer that all bicycles must be registered with the police. And a sticker with the registration number is to be placed on each bike. If a bike is found without one the owner can be fined. I know for certain that this is to be true, but I am only fairly certain that it is in Lapeer.
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  14. #14
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pj7 View Post
    I'd probably have the same outlook if I didn't have the "history" I do. I'm sure you've seen me post about my past before so I'll not rehash. I'd be more apt to feel that way if I lived in an area that had alot of abandoned bikes like you do. But here all of the seemingly abandoned bikes are total rust buckets that I wouldn't waste my time by picking them up and tossing them in a dumpster.
    Just so you know though, I'm fairly certain that it is in Lapeer that all bicycles must be registered with the police. And a sticker with the registration number is to be placed on each bike. If a bike is found without one the owner can be fined. I know for certain that this is to be true, but I am only fairly certain that it is in Lapeer
    .
    I know they used to register bikes all over Michigan. My dad always made us register ours when we were kids. The cop who came about my stolen bike suggested that I get my new bike registered with the police. I had to inform him that the Lansing police no longer register bikes. He said that's probably because it didn't really do much good.


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  15. #15
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I know they used to register bikes all over Michigan. My dad always made us register ours when we were kids. The cop who came about my stolen bike suggested that I get my new bike registered with the police. I had to inform him that the Lansing police no longer register bikes. He said that's probably because it didn't really do much good.
    The LEOs there sound pretty apathetic.
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  16. #16
    institutionalized PDXJeff's Avatar
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    I guess I would draw the line at cutting locks/chains. No matter how good your intentions, even if the bike is obvioulsy abandoned, if you get caught cutting off a lock, you are likely in way more trouble than the bike is worth. If the bike is sitting in the middle of a trash pile, unlocked, that's a different matter....

  18. #18
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    A case for "bicycle liberation."

    You are actually doing society good by liberating a bicycle and putting it back on the road. A functioning bicycle is an asset to society with health and environmental advantages. The alternative is that it ends ups clogging a landfill.

    That being said, its hard to tell if its really abandoned. I junk pile pick all the tiome. Its clear the bike is going to the trash. But an unlocked bike? How long does it have to be there before it is really "abandoned". And a locked bike?

    What about this situation, which I did. I was leaving school and could not take my commuter bike with me (a nice DL 1), so I "set it free" in a bike room of the apartment building I was living in. Would you take an unlocked bike from a bike storae room?
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  19. #19
    Senior Member tpelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I don't know. I remember reading on BF a couple years ago a member found an unscratched frame in a dumpster, and it was a great CF frame, an Orbea or some such. Also, as you probably know, fellow inner-city dweller, a lot of thugs who steal bikes know nothing about their value. They like the blingy X-mart faux-suspension faux-chrome faux-MTB but turn up their noses at a great road bike. Like the guy who stole my old Giant and left me a decent Fuji that somebody would E-pay at least $200 for.
    If something has been placed in a dumpster, or out by the curb leaning against the trash cans on trash-pickup day, then I believe that legally it's fair game. Am I wrong?

  20. #20
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    I would do this:

    Leave a note on the bike for probably two weeks asking if the bike is abandoned. Say "Please respond by xx/xx/xx if this bike is still in use". If there is no response within two weeks, and if it has abandonment signs, such as flat tires, rusty chain, or missing parts, it's probably fair game. Leave a note behind that says "If you bike is missing, please email xxx@blah.com". Probably best to use create a hotmail account for this purpose. If they want their bike back, leave it in some location locked, hide the key, and tell the person where they can find it.

    That's what I would do.

  21. #21
    Senior Member barba's Avatar
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    I usually just report abandoned bikes to the city or campus police. I have never actually wanted one of them (they are usually rusted out Wal-Mart "mountain bikes"), but they do tend to accumulate on college campuses and take up all of the lock up points. That seems reason enough to ask that they be removed. I don't think I would ever take matters into my own hands, but if I was interested in an abandoned bike I think I would ask the police if there is any way to buy or just have unclaimed abandoned bikes.

  22. #22
    One Man Fast Brick hubcap's Avatar
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    There has been the same bike at the train station using the same bike "rack" locking devices for many months now with no evidence that it has been moved. I'm 99% certain that the bike hasn't been used in a long long time. Has it been officially abandoned? I don't know. It annoys me though since, if I don't catch a pretty early train, the bike rack gets filled up and I have to less securely lock up to something stationary. I have told the station attendant about it to no avail. These things aren't your personal garage people! end of rant.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by tpelle View Post
    If something has been placed in a dumpster, or out by the curb leaning against the trash cans on trash-pickup day, then I believe that legally it's fair game. Am I wrong?
    Depends on the city you're in, some consider trash as just that, and feel as long as you're not making a mess that it's fine. others consider trash cans to be private property and will prosocute.

    I've snagged a LOT of good things from trash piles, and have also been harrassed for taking things out of them, main criteria seems to be whether you have legal right to be where the trash is located, on the street or in an open shared parking lot is one thing, a fenced area or some other restriction to free access is another.

    For the most part, if it's locked, it's best NOT to consider it abandoned without some serious digging.

    Ken.

  24. #24
    Pedal pusher... alicestrong's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Bikes are like currency because it's hard to prove ownership. They have serial numbers, but the numbers aren't registered like a car's VIN. Unless you have a bill of sale with the serial number from a reputable shop, you really can't prove the bike is yours. OTOH, nobody else can prove it's their's, so it really does belong to the person who possesses it
    You can take a pix of the bike, add the serial number etc., make two copies. Keep one at home on file and put the other in a ziplock including your name and address. Roll it up and hide it in the seat tube.

    At least then if you find or see your stolen bike anywhere you can call a cop, show your ID and explain the situation while extracting the info from the tube.

    Make sure to report your stolen bike.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member trackhub's Avatar
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    Values among kids and college students have certainly changed since I was either. When I was in college (70's) and a student no longer wanted his/her bicycle, they would simply place a card on the bulletin board, advertising it as being for sale. And back then, you would sell it quickly, as everyone wanted a "ten-speed". There were no abandonded bicycles. Today, the bike racks at campuses around Boston are full of abandonded bicycles, including some decent ones. Students either graduate, or move on to another school, and decide they no longer want the bike. At MIT and Harvard, police will red-tag bikes that have not moved for some time. The tag will have a date on it, and a statement that the bike will be removed on a certain date. That's the only and final notice the owner will receive.

    Kids today are even stranger. My sister lives near a heavily wooded area. (Deer sometimes come into the backyard) Area kids have left perfectly good bikes (including some of the kid sized Treks. Expensive!) in the woods on several occasions. She has mentioned this to area parents, and the parents simply say, laughingly, "Oh, little Justin didn't want that anymore, so he just left it in the woods."

    Man, If I ever left my bicycle somewhere, because I "didn't want it anymore", not only would I have never received another bike, but I don't think I would have been able to sit for a month.

    Still, I wouldn't take any of these bicycles, as they're not mine to take.
    I thought I was suffering from depression once. Turned out, I was simply surrounded by idiots.

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