Cops to bikers: Don’t make us clean up after you

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Cops in Carroll Gardens are cracking down on bicycles chained to city street signs, vowing to liberate the neglected machines with the power of the law — and a good set of bolt cutters — on their side.

The initiative was sparked by complaints from residents weary of seeing tangled heaps of rubber and metal at corners like Smith and President streets, according to Officer Vincent Marrone, a community affairs officer with the 76th Precinct, which encompasses Carroll Gardens.

Cops said they are in the investigatory phase of the crackdown, and will be canvassing the neighborhood in the coming days to find trouble spots. In the short term, education will be key, as the precinct will attempt to inform cyclists that it is illegal to lock their bikes to street signs.

Notes will be affixed to bikes in danger of removal, giving owners a last chance to salvage their property.

“If they’re derelict, we will take care of it,” said Marrone. “If the bikes are in good shape, we will try to find the rightful owner.”

The best chance of locating an owner would be if the frame is etched with a unique identification code, stored at the local precinct, Marrone said. Finding the owner of an unmarked bicycle might prove more of a challenge.

According to the Department of Transportation, there are 212 bike racks in the Carroll Gardens area, and the agency said its planning to increase the installation of racks there.

Marrone said that his officers are not in the business of taking people’s bikes — but once the precinct receives complaints, it must act, or else risk being chided for inaction.

“Our hands are tied,” he said.

Many locals said that the time had come for a clean-up.

“Some of those bikes have been there for nine months,” pointed out Katia Kelly, a member of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, adding that any bike with a rusted frame and blown-out tires ought to be removed.

Community Board 6 has set up an online survey to help plan for “more pleasant bicycling” within the district. Two questions focus on bicycle parking. The survey, which closes April 16, is available at

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

justin from clinton hill says:
Unless the city installs a few thousand more bike racks, enforcing the no locking to street signs rule would be devastating. There's simply nowhere else to lock up in lots of places. At any rate, it seems like the problem is not locking to street signs per se, but rather abandoned bikes, which I completely understand. The warning tag and then lock cutting plan is fine, as long as they actually give people time to see it. Trying to get every bike locked to a street sign removed seems like a huge waste of everyone's time, though.
April 14, 2010, 7:17 am
Mike from GP says:
It is NOT illegal to lock bikes to street signs. This is an oft-repeated mis-interpretation of the law by the NYPD (no surprise there).
April 14, 2010, 7:31 am
Manzell from Carroll Gardens says:
I don't see this as a problem. Only people on Smith Street who are parking their bikes long-term should be worried. If you're riding your bike once or twice a week, it shouldn't be an issue.

whatever PD says, it's highly likely that actual officers on the street will not want to bother removing bikes unless they have absolutely nothing else to do.
April 14, 2010, 9:12 am
Daniel from Prospect Heights says:
It sounds like the crack down is more about removing pieces of bikes that have been abandoned. You know what would be sweet? If the police cracked down on bike theft, a far greater plague than the occasional tire left chained to a signpost because the frame was stolen.
April 14, 2010, 9:39 am
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
Removing derelict and abandoned bikes, or , especially if the NYPD is going to tag them and give any owners the chance to remove them first, would be a good thing.

But installing more bike parking would help greatly, too. In Park Slope, where mechanical parking meters have been replaced with muni meters on stretches of 5th and 7th Avenues, suitable places to lock a bike are in short supply. DOT is planning to convert a number of the old meter poles to racks, but it's already been three months. We need more places to lock up!
April 14, 2010, 10:26 am
Scottilla from Midwood says:
Is it really illegal to lock bikes to street signs?

I guarantee that the owners of these bikes are not the ones stripping the bikes for parts. Maybe the police should be doing their jobs and protecting the public (including cyclists)?
April 14, 2010, 12:24 pm
skribe from crown heights says:
Education: According to Transportation Alternatives, the alleged illegality of locking bikes to signposts etc., is an inaccurate interpretation of the law; the issue at least, is not explicitly addressed in existing law. I don't know whether the relevant law's been changed, rather than interpreted according to convenience of the interpreter. But, according to Transportation Alternatives:

"There is no City or State law that prohibits or affirms people’s right to lock their bicycles to public street
fixtures According to New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Article 24, Section 1115, one
may not alter, knock down, cover, remove, or interfere with the operation of public traffic signals
and signs and other street fixtures. It is against New York City law to lock a bicycle to a tree
because the bicycle and lock could harm and potentially kill the tree.

A bicycle resting on the sidewalk, locked to a traffic signal pole or signpost, lamppost, parking
meter, bus stop poles and other public street fixtures does not interfere with the operation of these
things and, thus is not against the law. Locking to non-bike rack fixtures is not ideal, but due to
the lack of DOT-installed racks, it is often the only viable option."
April 15, 2010, 8:31 am
Fourth Estate from DUMBO says:
NYPD inventing laws? Oh my, perish the thought!
April 16, 2010, 11:06 am
Fourth Estate from DUMBO says:

You forgot section (b)

(b) For the purposes of this section, to `deface` shall include, but
not be limited to, to damage, destroy, disfigure, erase, ruin, distort,
spoil or otherwise change the external appearance of an object by the
use of chalk, crayon, paint, stain, ink or other similar material

If your bike chain so much as scratches the post, it would be considered 'damaging', it may be a stretch, but technically you would be violating the law if the chain makes even a scratch, as the pole is painted and delivered without scratches (so they would say).
April 16, 2010, 11:10 am
David on Middagh from Brooklyn Heights says:
Somewhere, sometime I read a bike advocate explain: that NYC policy is to allow affixing of a bicycle to public infrastructure such as street poles, so long as the bicycle isn't an unreasonable obstruction.

I take that to mean, "Don't block up narrow passages or put obstacles in busy pedestrian areas."

I support the police & our neighbors in their effort to clear away abandoned, eyesore bicycles.

Having myself lost a bike to theft (the twisted, broken Kryptonite U-lock was all that remained--and I only left it for a few hours), I agree that bicycle theft is a BIG problem.
April 17, 2010, 6:56 pm
lalaland from kensington says:
I don't think anyone will protest abandoned bikes being removed (after all, now you have a place to lock up your working bike!) but it would indeed be helpful if the police did more to prevent the thefts that generally lead to bikes being abandoned in the first place.
July 20, 2011, 3:30 pm
joe doe from rockaway says:
U r all wrong by not taking good care to your property ( bikes) .Suggestions - buy insurance, register ( etching ) your bike, and park on the street with no worries. Complaints about thief taking care of your garbage bike tide to the pole, fixture or any of NOT your property is ridiculous, careless and unrespecfull to the community. If you have any other opinions you should get more educated.
May 15, 2015, 9:34 am

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