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Old 08-28-11, 03:27 AM   #1
pkpyro
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Abandoned bike?

I picked up an abandoned bike a couple weeks ago beside a dumpster. I was looking for a road bike to ride and I found it there. It was not in a rideable shape. Eyed it for about four days but no one took it. Then I took it into my garage.

I fixed it up and rode it around for a couple weeks. Worked for me. Then I realized that this bike might have been stolen. I looked up all local stolen bike registries with the serial number. None reported stolen. Then I looked at all of Canada. No match.

Finally put up an ad on Craigslist for it... will be sad to see it go since I put in a lot of work to make it run again, but... what's right is right. No response yet, though.

So the real question: Is it legal for me to keep the bike? What happens if any bloke comes up to me and claims that it's his / her bike? Do I have a right to maintain possession of the bike until the owner provides proof?

I'd like some advice both morally and legally. I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada, if that helps.


If anyone cares, here's a list of everything I did to make it run smooth again.
-Replaced front wheel (original wheel looked like it was hammered)
-New seat (old seat was torn up with no cushion left)
-Lots and lots of grime removal
-Lots and lots of rust removal
-Replaced both brake and shift cables. Had to replace housing as well (rust?ish grime)
-Replaced chain
-Replaced rear tire (no grip, bald spots showing)
-Replaced front tube (slow leak)

Ran me down about $60~ and about 8 hours of labour. Had a friend help me out for some part of it.

Last edited by pkpyro; 08-28-11 at 03:28 AM. Reason: Typos
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Old 08-28-11, 03:40 AM   #2
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I think you worry to much.

If it isn't locked, not riding anymore and sitting beside a dumpster it is there for the taking. Either by a passer by or the garbage disposers. I once put a bike in similar condition at a similar place and an older guy took it to see if he could get it working again. Worked for me, less garbage to pick up for the disposers and hopefully it worked out for the new owner.
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Old 08-28-11, 04:30 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by pkpyro View Post
I picked up an abandoned bike a couple weeks ago beside a dumpster. I was looking for a road bike to ride and I found it there. It was not in a rideable shape. Eyed it for about four days but no one took it. Then I took it into my garage.

I fixed it up and rode it around for a couple weeks. Worked for me. Then I realized that this bike might have been stolen. I looked up all local stolen bike registries with the serial number. None reported stolen. Then I looked at all of Canada. No match.

Finally put up an ad on Craigslist for it... will be sad to see it go since I put in a lot of work to make it run again, but... what's right is right. No response yet, though.

So the real question: Is it legal for me to keep the bike? What happens if any bloke comes up to me and claims that it's his / her bike? Do I have a right to maintain possession of the bike until the owner provides proof?

I'd like some advice both morally and legally. I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada, if that helps.


If anyone cares, here's a list of everything I did to make it run smooth again.
-Replaced front wheel (original wheel looked like it was hammered)
-New seat (old seat was torn up with no cushion left)
-Lots and lots of grime removal
-Lots and lots of rust removal
-Replaced both brake and shift cables. Had to replace housing as well (rust?ish grime)
-Replaced chain
-Replaced rear tire (no grip, bald spots showing)
-Replaced front tube (slow leak)

Ran me down about $60~ and about 8 hours of labour. Had a friend help me out for some part of it.
I don't think that you did ANYTHING wrong and the fact that you have concerns tells me that you are a good bloke.
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Old 08-28-11, 08:45 AM   #4
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It was abandoned to the trash. You are fine, I agree with the commenters above.
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Old 08-28-11, 08:54 AM   #5
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You could contact you local authorities and ask about the procedures for claiming lost property.

For me it was to turn the bike into the cops. Notify them of the intent to claim w/in 10 business days, place an ad in a local newspaper for two weeks (which was free), and wait 90 days. I also put the bike up on bikeportland.org as a possible method of locating the original owner.

Nobody claimed it, and I've got the paperwork to show that I am now the legal owner of the bike. I've since given the bike (after fixing it up) to my GF. The guys at the bike shop were very impressed with the find.

If you've got another ride, I'd take off the new parts, restore the old ones that you can, then turn it in. Perform the required steps needed, wait, then claim it when the time requirement is met.
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Old 08-28-11, 09:13 AM   #6
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If you've got another ride, I'd take off the new parts, restore the old ones that you can, then turn it in. Perform the required steps needed, wait, then claim it when the time requirement is met.
Considering all the measures the OP has already taken to find any owner, I think turning it in to the police is unnecessary. It would be different if the damage to the bike had appeared to be recent, such as due to vandalism or theft, but the OP's description indicates that the bike was abandoned long before it was left at the dumpster.
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Old 08-28-11, 10:49 AM   #7
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It was abandoned to the trash. You are fine, I agree with the commenters above.
In many jurisdictions, trash isn't free for the taking any more -- too many cases of people stealing financial documents or personal information from trash cans have led more and more jurisdictions to legally define continuous ownership of trash, so that whoever takes your credit card statements out of your trash can be prosecuted for theft even if there isn't adequate proof of attempted identity theft.

Apart from that legal distinction, there's the issue of who abandoned the bike -- did the owner leave it there? Or was it stolen and abandoned there by the thief?

If it was left there by a thief, it's still the original owner's property, and we don't know that the original owner has abandoned recovery efforts. That original owner might, for example, be watching Craigslist to see if anyone is trying to sell the stolen bike...
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Old 08-28-11, 11:08 AM   #8
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I get opportunities like your's constantly. Living in an apartment complex, there are those that move or are evicted. When they move, it's obvious they are throwing the bike away. Eviction ? Not quite sure of the rules there, but I, like you in that case have a heart. If it's an eviction, the bike may be the only means of transportation they have, so I don't like the idea of kicking someone when they are down & need a little help.
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Old 08-28-11, 11:14 AM   #9
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While I don't know Canadian law, the fact of bike being in such poor shape and next to a dumpster logically says that the owner wanted to get rid of it and won't come looking for it. At the same time, since the bike was left next to a dumpster, that would make it the property of the business/apartment complex renting the dumpster. Because while no one would seemingly want 'garbage', all the contents within and/or somehow attached to the dumpster, is the property of the dumpster's renter.

Since it has been several weeks since you found the bike, I think it could be chalked up to 'finders, keepers, losers, weepers', and that no one is going to try to claim it when seeing it on Craigslist.

So from all the work you did on the bike, you could either keep it, or sell it for far more than $60.
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Old 08-28-11, 11:14 AM   #10
pkpyro
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Hm. I agree with every one of you to certain extents.
Certainly good to gain new perspectives...

I think I might take the legal way in a month... for the time being, keep searching stolen bike lists.

Vancouver isn't much of a place to ride a road bike past September.. rains nearly everyday. I've got a mountain bike that I ride in the winter (rain / snowy weather calls for disc brakes and knobby tires) anyways.
That way, once I'm the legal owner of the bike I can sell if I wish to or give it to a friend without worrying about them running into any problems.

Thanks for all the info
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Old 08-28-11, 11:35 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K'Tesh View Post
You could contact you local authorities and ask about the procedures for claiming lost property.
[...]
If you've got another ride, I'd take off the new parts, restore the old ones that you can, then turn it in. Perform the required steps needed, wait, then claim it when the time requirement is met.
I think the previous owner left it at the specific location as a signal that it might be salvageable. Making a big issue out of this seems to me as a tad over the top. In Holland large trash (tables, refrigerators etc.) is collected once every two weeks, the night before it is collected you will find people collecting the stuff they need. I once got a decent couch for free that I used for the next two years. The previous owners even helped me drag it up my stairs. It's pretty common here but the Dutch are really cheap

It could be that someone actually left an unlocked, trashed bike at a dumpster to pick it up later but what are the chances? It would have to be some sick sting operation to make this a theft.
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Old 08-28-11, 12:25 PM   #12
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I think the previous owner left it at the specific location as a signal that it might be salvageable. Making a big issue out of this seems to me as a tad over the top. In Holland large trash (tables, refrigerators etc.) is collected once every two weeks, the night before it is collected you will find people collecting the stuff they need. I once got a decent couch for free that I used for the next two years. The previous owners even helped me drag it up my stairs. It's pretty common here but the Dutch are really cheap
I live in the U.S. and when I moved out of my apartment four years ago, I put everything still worth using, on the 'community' table in the laundry room.

Sure I wanted other people to be able to use the items, but I also made sure the items were more than salvageable. I took care of items, when they were in my possession. Not many people do that, just like the owner that left the bike at the dumpster.
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Old 08-28-11, 01:14 PM   #13
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I really believe you are ok with it because it sat there unattended for 4 days and after your efforts no owner has come forward.
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Old 08-28-11, 02:44 PM   #14
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Thief!

Just kidding. A road bike with gears? Do people in Vancouver still ride those? Here I thought there were only three types of bike in Vancouver: Mountain, Tri, and Messenger. Four if you count recumbents for programmers and professors.

I think any reasonable person would agree that this bike was left for salvage unless of course there was a cut lock next to it. By checking registries and posting a public notice you have taken reasonable steps to find a potential claimant.

I consider myself to be reasonable and I probably wouldn't have taken any of the steps you mention after the initial four day wait.

Nice the bike found a good home.
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Old 08-28-11, 02:59 PM   #15
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Keep the bike. Sounds like it was left for trash. It is refreshing to see your level of honesty.
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Old 08-29-11, 09:56 AM   #16
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This is true for the UK, don't know how it translates to Canada.

Taking The bike WOULD technically constitute a theft, however your actions provide you with a couple of perfectly legal defences that would mean the police would take no action, and not treat it as such.

In the UK a defence to theft is if you have an honest belief that the owner has abandoned all their rights to said property. In your case, witnessing it in an unworking state next to a dumpster for four days has you covered.

Another defence is that you found some lost property, and have kept it after making reasonable attempts to find the owner. You've put an advert up on Craigslist, which goes some way towards this. If you were in the UK, I'd also advise you to report it to the police as lost - that way if someone had reprted it stolen it'll tie in together.

So, you've done nothing wrong. Now the issue with "what if someone wants it back". They'd have to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the bike was theirs, and if they could, they would have a right to reclaim it. The 'balance of probabilities' would be for a civil court to decide, but a couple of examples where they would be able to get it back would be if they could quote the serial number, or had placed a police report PRIOR to your Craigslist. Other circumstances would be argued.

If the original owner did claim it back, you could raise a civil claim against them for the cost of the repairs you put on the bike. You'd be unlikely to be awarded the full amount as they didn't ask for the work, but you might get something.
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