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Old 03-07-11, 10:07 AM   #1
Dan The Man
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Does City Have the Right to Cut My Lock?

So here is the situation: last week, my winter bike disappeared from in front of my apartment. It was locked to a sidewalk bike post. After several days I managed to deduce that it was removed by a city vehicle. This involved many phone calls and getting an eye witness to the event.

This morning I got the bike returned by city engineering. The guy who cut the lock said it was taken because it was abandoned. He said he left a hand written tag on it before Christmas. This bike is at my front door and I never saw a tag. There was no tag when he returned it, and he said there was no tag on it when he cut the lock, claiming it may have blown away in the wind. I haven't used the bike since before Christmas, so it has been sitting there. But that is only because the roads have been covered in snow and ice. My apartment is upstairs and small, so I don't like keeping a dirty bike indoors. The bike is not really valuable, which is why I lock it outside, and the chain was rusted.

So now I have my bike back. I was kind of upset by the amount of work I had to go through just to track it down. But do I have any recourse to get my lock replaced? The bike is worth maybe $50 and the lock cost me $20, so it's about half the value of the bike. I just feel that it is unfair that the city can destroy my property like that. I understand the need to remove abandoned bikes, but without any tag or notice on the bike that I saw, I think I should get a new lock and an apology.
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Old 03-07-11, 10:16 AM   #2
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Was it locked up at the end of each day or was it locked up there without moving since before Christmas? If it's been there since Christmas, you're probably out of luck.
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Old 03-07-11, 10:39 AM   #3
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I think you just have to chalk this one up to experience.

The bike was static for longer than two months, locked to a city post.

I can see where they thought it was abandoned. They left a note — that seems fair — and they didn't put the bike in the police pile before you could get your hands on it.

A bummer, but ... hard to find villainous behavior here.
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Old 03-07-11, 10:45 AM   #4
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Forget the city's behavior -- you left your bike parked outside for two months??? Even if it is a cheap POS, that kind of treatment is just going to make it worse.

This is a good lesson for you, actually. It's called Taking Care of Your Things.
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Old 03-07-11, 10:45 AM   #5
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So here is the situation: last week, my winter bike disappeared from in front of my apartment. It was locked to a sidewalk bike post. After several days I managed to deduce that it was removed by a city vehicle. This involved many phone calls and getting an eye witness to the event.

This morning I got the bike returned by city engineering. The guy who cut the lock said it was taken because it was abandoned. He said he left a hand written tag on it before Christmas. This bike is at my front door and I never saw a tag. There was no tag when he returned it, and he said there was no tag on it when he cut the lock, claiming it may have blown away in the wind. I haven't used the bike since before Christmas, so it has been sitting there. But that is only because the roads have been covered in snow and ice. My apartment is upstairs and small, so I don't like keeping a dirty bike indoors. The bike is not really valuable, which is why I lock it outside, and the chain was rusted.

So now I have my bike back. I was kind of upset by the amount of work I had to go through just to track it down. But do I have any recourse to get my lock replaced? The bike is worth maybe $50 and the lock cost me $20, so it's about half the value of the bike. I just feel that it is unfair that the city can destroy my property like that. I understand the need to remove abandoned bikes, but without any tag or notice on the bike that I saw, I think I should get a new lock and an apology.

You left a bike completely unused, locked on public property, for months.

From my perspective, it doesn't matter whether or not they left a note. Any reasonable person would consider it to be abandoned, and the city had every right to cut the lock.

If you want to keep your stuff, then keep it on your property, and don't leave out, unused, for almost three months.
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Old 03-07-11, 10:56 AM   #6
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So if it is not possible to keep a bicycle in my apartment, what should I do with it during the winter? I have a summer bike stuffed inside already and there isn't exactly a place for one more. This is Canada, the roads are pretty messy from December until March. I see one or two people riding a bike in a month during the winter, and I wouldn't want to be those people. I ride this bike from whenever the snow and salt starts until the roads are unridable and from whenever the roads clear up to when all of the salt is removed.

At what condition can the city remove an old bicycle? They have no way to know when it was last used except for the chain being rusty. There was no tag on it, so as I see the posibilities, either the guy never tagged it, and just picks up bikes he sees that look unused. Or he tagged it and the tag fell off. In which case he should assume it was removed by the owner as a message that the bike shouldn't be removed.
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Old 03-07-11, 11:04 AM   #7
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Maybe every week or two, you could flip it around and lock it a different direction? Roll it through the snow and make some tracks
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Old 03-07-11, 11:06 AM   #8
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So if it is not possible to keep a bicycle in my apartment, what should I do with it during the winter? I have a summer bike stuffed inside already and there isn't exactly a place for one more. This is Canada, the roads are pretty messy from December until March. I see one or two people riding a bike in a month during the winter, and I wouldn't want to be those people. I ride this bike from whenever the snow and salt starts until the roads are unridable and from whenever the roads clear up to when all of the salt is removed.

At what condition can the city remove an old bicycle? They have no way to know when it was last used except for the chain being rusty. There was no tag on it, so as I see the posibilities, either the guy never tagged it, and just picks up bikes he sees that look unused. Or he tagged it and the tag fell off. In which case he should assume it was removed by the owner as a message that the bike shouldn't be removed.

The tag is a bunny trail. It doesn't make the slightest bit of difference whether or not there was one on the bike. By your own admission, the bike had been sitting abandoned for months.

As for what to do with the winter bike - well, if you're not actually using it all that much, you'll need to reconsider whether it's worth it to you to keep it. Maybe you can disassemble it and stuff it under a bed. Maybe you can get a nice neighbor to store it for you.

But the reality is that you can't use public places as your long-term parking lot.
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Old 03-07-11, 11:07 AM   #9
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I frequently leave my car unused in front of my house for months - and I'd be pretty upset if the city just came and took it away and damaged it in the process.

Leaving a tag on the bike seems reasonable, but if the tag is no longer there when they came back to take the bike they should have either left it alone or left another tag on it. Since the tag was gone it's an indication that either the tag wasn't properly secured or that someone (maybe the bike owner) has removed it - possibly while using the bike. Without the tag still on the bike the city had no way of knowing if the owner had been given fair warning that his property was going to be removed.

I'd write a letter to the city mayor with copy to the transportation or maintenance departments explaining what happened and your cost and time involved in getting your bike back and replacing the lock. Provide an estimate of the total cost to you and ask for reimbursement.
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Old 03-07-11, 11:10 AM   #10
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this is why you shouldn't park in the same spot every day. even if you aren't using it, move it around in case someone is keeping an eye on it.

you're lucky a neighbor didn't liberate it and lucky the city didn't destroy or auction it off before you found it.
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Old 03-07-11, 11:25 AM   #11
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So if it is not possible to keep a bicycle in my apartment, what should I do with it during the winter? I have a summer bike stuffed inside already and there isn't exactly a place for one more.
I sympathize. But the city shouldn't set its threshold for deciding when a bike or car has been abandoned to fit a case like yours. Two months is a reasonable time for them to wait. I'm surprised you're not paying the city a fine.

Could you store the bike if you dismantled it? Bikes get a lot smaller when the wheels and pedals are off. Failing this, get a plasticized sign made with your contact details on it.
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Old 03-07-11, 11:38 AM   #12
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Forget the city's behavior -- you left your bike parked outside for two months??? Even if it is a cheap POS, that kind of treatment is just going to make it worse.

This is a good lesson for you, actually. It's called Taking Care of Your Things.
I can guarantee that riding a bike in winter salt conditions will do more damage than leaving it outside. A rusted chain may look bad, but is very easy to get moving with a bit of lube and most of the rust is on the surface. If you ride it every day, you just grind salt into the bearing, slush gets picked up and packs the derailleurs and all of the cables wick salt water into the housings.
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Old 03-07-11, 11:39 AM   #13
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To compare to cars, if someone reports a car as unused on the street around here, the police come by and tag it (a bright orange sticker on the window) and if it's not moved for 30 days, it gets towed. Sounds like your bike got similar treatment. I think the only beef you have is whether or not the bike was actually tagged and whether the tag was properly affixed and durable enough, but with the winter weather they may have put something reasonable on that simply didn't hold up to the weather. If they can show you a record of the tag being put on the bike, then yeah, you're outta luck. If they can't produce such a record, then maybe you could complain but I still bet it won't go anywhere. It's a $20 lock; chalk it up to experience and move on.
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Old 03-07-11, 11:45 AM   #14
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By the guys description, the tags are beige hand written notes in a ziplock bag taped to the handlebar. I walk in front of my bike every day and I am very doubtful there was ever any such tag on it. There was certainly none when he removed it. I suspect rather than going through the effort of tagging bikes far in advance, he just eyeballs it and picks up the old looking ones.
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Old 03-07-11, 12:28 PM   #15
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I'm actually on Dan the Man's side for this one. If the city intends to enforce it's notice of intent to tow, impound, confiscate, remove anothers property, the tag or notice should be a numbered item, like any ticket that the city issues. That tag or notice should also be tracked, otherwise how would the city know when the time period has elapsed. It is not uncommon for a bike to be locked on public easements and not breaking any laws. The process is in place, if they can't produce a tag or notice number specifically issued for that bike, they obviously returned his bike, the lock and whatever damaged they caused should be compensated for their error if the documentation isn't in order.

Recently the city I live in has implemented a bike rental program, we'll call it Decobike because, that's the name of the program. The solar powered docking/rental stations are being installed everywhere. The city is using spaces that formerly were parking spots for those that own automobiles. Automobile owners that now have fewer spaces to park because of the new program, yet have to purchase parking decals that prior to the program still didn't guarantee a parking space. These docking/rental stations are installed in residential areas where tenants of apartments without parking lots face parking their cars on the streets. Same holds for the bikes. You can see the dilemma here. Cars get towed, those that own their own bikes rather than rent are displaced from being able to lock their bikes up in favor of a $ 15/month or pay per use shared bike program that now occupies the spots where a car was parked or even had a bike rack to lock a bike to. What if a resident wants to own a simple Wal-Mart $ 69.99 Huffy ? That's considerably less than $ 180 for annual fees for the shared bike program. So ownership of a car and a bike is being discouraged & penalized so the city can rent a bike. The city will continue to tow cars, remove bicycles, yet the bike rental program will never be in the wrong at the expense of a citizens right to the pursuit of happiness in owning the bicycle of their choice.

I think Dan's dilemma falls under a public domain issue that the city he lives in created. So the bike was there for a couple of months, locked because it was too damn cold to ride it. Well Spring is arriving and perhaps this bike is also used throughout the year. Was it abandoned ? I don't consider it as that, because Dan continued to live where he did. They cut his lock, jacked his bicycle, whether intentionally for auction purposes or in error, he is entitled to be made whole for the property. That doesn't begin to cover the effort for him to track down a problem the city created.
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Old 03-07-11, 12:38 PM   #16
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Considering the condition of the bike, and that you left it locked up outside, and it was left outside for quite some time, I am not surprised it was perceived as being tantamount to an 'abandoned vehicle'. Get a better bike and keep it indoors.
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Old 03-07-11, 12:42 PM   #17
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I think Dan's dilemma falls under a public domain issue that the city he lives in created. So the bike was there for a couple of months, locked because it was too damn cold to ride it. Well Spring is arriving and perhaps this bike is also used throughout the year. Was it abandoned ? I don't consider it as that, because Dan continued to live where he did. They cut his lock, jacked his bicycle, whether intentionally for auction purposes or in error, he is entitled to be made whole for the property. That doesn't begin to cover the effort for him to track down a problem the city created.
As a citizen of my city, I wouldn't want to see rusty old bikes chained to every lamp post and parking meter. What about other property that I can't or don't have room to store - can I chain that to a lamp post for a few months too and not expect it to be removed?

Two months is a more than reasonable time to wait before removing them. No tag necessary.

Things would get pretty unsightly very quickly if everyone left property locked to public fixtures.
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Old 03-07-11, 01:32 PM   #18
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And whether it's right or not for the city to do this, obviously they did it, and it seems likely they'd do it again.

As for getting a new lock, you'd have to sue them, and in general the odds of successfully suing the government are slim at best. And for only $20? (An apology is not likely at all.)

Chalk it up to experience, consider yourself lucky that you got the bike back at all, buy a new lock, and don't let it happen again.
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Old 03-07-11, 01:45 PM   #19
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Depending on city laws, you may be lucky. Some cities would have had the police give you one, two or maybe three parking citations before taking the bike. Then when you found your bike, the city could demand that you pay the fine(s), plus a storage charge before returning the bike.
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Old 03-07-11, 02:08 PM   #20
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It's locked to a bike post, not a lamp post or a parking meter. A post in the sidewalk for locking bikes to. So how should cities determine how long something has been locked up for and how long is too long? Should every old looking bike be removed from bike racks?
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Old 03-07-11, 02:58 PM   #21
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I don't know the rule on bikes, but in Texas if a car is seen to be on the street parked for some time without moving they chalk the tire. After a week or so, if the city worker see's the chalk in the same place (the car hasn't moved) they will tow it and you have to pay for the tow and to get it out of the garage they tow it to.

I'm not saying I think this is fair, I'm just saying that if they will do this to a car, it stands to reason that they will do this to a bike as well.
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Old 03-07-11, 03:10 PM   #22
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It's locked to a bike post, not a lamp post or a parking meter. A post in the sidewalk for locking bikes to. So how should cities determine how long something has been locked up for and how long is too long? Should every old looking bike be removed from bike racks?
You really need to look up your city laws.

Honolulu only allows 24 hours for automobile parking before they can be ticketed even if on a free parking street. After that the city puts a notice on the car and week or so later will tow it as abandoned.

Honolulu did not have a similar bicycle law until some jackass bought a bunch of cheap chopper bikes, put advertisements on the bikes and then locked them around the city on the bike stands (skirting the advertising sign restrictions). That prompted a new law of around one week bicycle sidewalk parking limit.
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Old 03-07-11, 03:32 PM   #23
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I don't know the rule on bikes, but in Texas if a car is seen to be on the street parked for some time without moving they chalk the tire. After a week or so, if the city worker see's the chalk in the same place (the car hasn't moved) they will tow it and you have to pay for the tow and to get it out of the garage they tow it to.

I'm not saying I think this is fair, I'm just saying that if they will do this to a car, it stands to reason that they will do this to a bike as well.
So by that analogy, what they did is they chalked the tire and then came back and towed the car even though the chalk was gone. Or maybe they never chalked it at all in the first place and just came along and took an old looking car.
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Old 03-07-11, 03:48 PM   #24
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So by that analogy, what they did is they chalked the tire and then came back and towed the car even though the chalk was gone. Or maybe they never chalked it at all in the first place and just came along and took an old looking car.
From this thread and a few other post, you sound like a college kid that likes pissing in the wind.

Seriously, go read your cities laws and then get back to us.
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Old 03-07-11, 03:49 PM   #25
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Maybe you should contact the city to find out the answers to your questions. Someone at city hall will be able to direct you to the city by-laws (which can often be found online).

I'd be more interested in finding out how your city deals with such things than you coming in here and whining about what you "feel" is an injustice.
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