Help Map New York’s Abandoned Bikes

Irit Kafkafi points to an abandoned bike on the Lower East Side (c) Benepe

April 28, 2012 (New York, NY)

New York City’s radio station that runs mostly on listener contributions is asking for members to help them map all the abandoned bikes in the city.

The project was announced today on WNYC (93.9 on the FM dial) and reported on the station’s Transportation Nation website.

Benepe’s Bike Blog ran a long expose on the topic of bad bicyclist behavior in August 2010, and featured downtown denizen Irit Kafkafi whose Lower East Side neighborhood is so littered with abandoned bikes she has no where to park her own bicycle.

At the time, the city’s Department of Sanitation was developing rules to allow workers to remove bicycles that had been abandoned.

The rules for determining whether your ride is now junk have been meticulously developed–so much so that you would have to wait over a year before your crushed, dented, rusted steed would even be considered for removal.

Those rules were made to protect owners who actually like to ride bikes that look like crap, and just happen to park them on the street for too many fortnights.

A smashed, derelectia common to the NYU neighborhood (C) Benepe

Now WNYC wants to try and document all of the left over bicycles in the city with you dear cynical New Yorker, busy-body, mensch, helping to do so.

The instructions are not so simple: after you have pinpointed the location of an abandoned bicycle, you must call 311, the city’s main customer service line, and tell them its exact location.

A sanitation worker will be sent to the location to determine if the bicycle is indeed, classifiable as a “derelictia,” (our new word).

Then, not until you have received word back that the bicycle meets all of the criteria, can you actually list it as abandoned.

For those of you used to instant gratification, the task may be too Herculean, at least in the adminstrative, bureaucratic, level of patience needed for the task.

And, unless the Department of Sanitation has made recent improvements in their response time, our guess is this cycle of notification and approval will take upwards of six months,

But for those of you classic New Yorkers who love to give your two cents every time you see an injustice, this is the job for you, for there is NO END for your work! Apparently, bicycles are being abandoned every day, otherwise we likely would now be rid of them.

What’s more, the definition of derelict to some is “a nice bike” to others. Here are some of the criteria as defined by

Another derelectia. Bet it's still there! (c) Benepe

Sanitation. The bicycle:

  • appears to be crushed or unusable
  • parts are missing other than seat or front wheel
  • bicycle has a flat or missing tires
  • the handlebars or pedals are damaged, or existing forks, frames or rims are bent
  • 75 percent or more of the bicycle is rusted

WNYC explains that “the bike must be locked to public property: light poles, bus stop signs, parking meters, trees, tree pit railings and bike racks.”

They also report that the Department of Sanitation said they receive many calls regarding abandoned bicycles, “but upon inspection by our field supervisor a large percentage of the bicycles don’t meet the criteria to be classified as derelict.”


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