Bike Corpses

10 Aug

Photo from

A recent piece published on the magazine Good‘s web site describes an art project that documents the hundreds of presumably abandoned bicycles in New York City.

As much as I can appreciate the aesthetic appeal here, I’m more interested in two other things.  The first is how NYC actually deals with these bikes.  Here are the criteria used by the city’s Department of Sanitation (and this only after someone has called to complain about the bike):

“According to the DSNY, a bike must be locked on public property and meet three of the following five criteria to count as abandoned: the bike is crushed or unusable; is missing parts other than a seat or front wheel; has a flat or missing tires; has damaged handlebars, pedals, frames, forks, or rims; or is rusted throughout more than three-quarters of its body. The DSNY told Transportation Nation that ‘upon inspection by our field supervisor a large percentage of the bicycles don’t meet the criteria to be classified as derelict.'”

This is a bit of a problem in Richmond, too, so perhaps we can take these criteria as a starting point for developing a derelict bicycle policy here.

My other interest is what happens to the bicycles that are removed.  Well, in NYC they are taken to a salvage yard.  Not every derelict bicycle can be rehabilitated, but it seems like a terrible waste of frames and parts that could be reused.

Hopefully New York (and maybe Richmond?) will soon have an earn-a-bike program like the one run by Bikes Not Bombs in Boston, recently described in Bicycling magazine.  I won’t try to summarize all of the detailed, well-written piece, but suffice it to say that local kids and teens get to keep a bicycle that they build from the frame up from recovered parts.  Not surprisingly, the benefits go beyond bike repair skills and getting a bicycle.  Now that’s recycling!


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