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The "abandoned" bikes of Toronto

Posted by Guest Contributor / May 27, 2011

Abandoned Bikes TorontoIt all started innocently enough. Coming down the street one day I noticed a friendly looking little yellow tag on my bicycle, which was parked in its usual spot on an old pole in my neighbourhood. Things took an unwelcome turn, however, when I had a closer look and noticed the following warning: "please remove your bike within 7 days or City forces will remove it."

What could this mean?

Abandoned Bike TorontoI took the "friendly looking yellow tag" inside to study it further. What? "Inspection shows that this bike appears abandoned." Excuse me? I had parked it in that spot just a few hours ago. My bike isn't scrap metal!

Toronto Abandoned Bike NoticeI was not happy. Not only did I get a ticket telling me to remove my bike from my favourite parking spot, but on top of that "Nick the bylaw officer," had the cheek to call my bike abandoned — like I was some irresponsible cyclist, letting my bike fall all to pieces like a big-eyed puppy at the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

After the initial rage and shame had passed, I got to wondering: what other bikes in Toronto had received these little yellow tickets? And were they in the same kind of "abandoned" shape as mine, which incidentally is a very beautiful, if slightly modest, ride complete with two wheels and even a basket?

Abandoned Bike TorontoSo I went for a walk, just to see what this Nick chap had or hadn't gotten up to. Here's a brief survey of my findings.

Abandoned Bike TorontoOkay so this one makes sense — look at that wheel! And the seat would for sure be painful. Totally, totally abandoned. And a little yellow ticket to prove it. Although, hmmmm, wait a second — if this "bike" got a ticket and my bike got a ticket...this means Nick is saying my bike is just like this bike.

The rage returned. What other judgment calls is Nick making? In what other ways is he destroying lives? I kept walking and came across this next specimen.

2011527-felder5.jpgClearly a working model. You know what the best part is? No yellow ticket. So I kept walking. Angrily.

2011527-Felder-6.jpgNo pedals. No Ticket. Grrrrrrrrrr. Onward I went...

Abandoned Bike TorontoAgain, no ticket. If not for abandonment, at least it should have gotten one for hideousness.

The next one was like some random nest of bikes arguing. No tickets, of course.
Abandoned Bike TorontoThis one I wasn't quite sure about, but I felt like it needed some kind of ticket too.

2011527-Felder-9.jpgThis next bike was so old it had clearly melted away. Again, no ticket.

Abandoned Bike TorontoI think the most insulting one, however, had to be this next specimen.

Abandoned BikeDo you see a ticket? NO!

So here we have a situation where a perfectly working if slightly scruffy bike, one that had been parked just hours before, kept at least one car off busy streets, and had a lovely basket to boot, had been brought to task by "Nick" for being abandoned. Now I know that Nick can't be everywhere, and judging how abandoned a bike looks is subjective business, but after this brief tour, one might conclude that his time would be better spent ticketing those bikes that have been truly defeated by the elements.

In closing, I'd like to come back to my bike's presence at its usual parking spot on an old pole. I enclose picture of said pole below, as I'm contemplating issuing the City a ticket for an abandoned pole if there's no bike using it in seven days.

2011527-Felder-12.jpgFor another take on the abandoned bike issue, check out this previous post.

Writing by Melissa Felder. Lead photo by PJMixer, all subsequent photos by the author.



tomms / May 27, 2011 at 10:40 am
mike in parkdale / May 27, 2011 at 10:44 am
haha.... "hideousness"

come on - that orange utility bike is probably the most interesting ride in the article. It looks like a Dutchman's dream! Haters gonna hate.
VERWHO? / May 27, 2011 at 10:57 am
I wonder if you were just walking in the wrong direction? Hm! Still, I think it's good that the most derelict, sad bikes get laid to rest, and free up those poles for the living.
I'm sorry your bike was unjustly targetted in a clear act of elitist discrimination! Shame on Nick. Has he not eyes?
Sean / May 27, 2011 at 10:58 am
"No pedals. No Ticket. Grrrrrrrrrr."

polomj / May 27, 2011 at 11:02 am
My guess is that you were warned because you were locked to a street sign pole and not a regulation bike lock pole.

Typical of the city though to not give a proper explanation, and to appear to be out to slap wrists randomly.
Kay / May 27, 2011 at 11:03 am
The photo essay was quite a fun idea and enjoyable to look at! Thanks. Your rage was unpleasant to read though. I guess it takes the bureaucracy a while to get around the entire city. And yes, they probably make quite a few mistakes. Oh well.
Kay replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / May 27, 2011 at 11:04 am
I liked the orange bike too!
Seij / May 27, 2011 at 11:09 am
Interesting piece. A friend of mine shared this with me as I actually started a very informal photo project ( about abandoned bicycles in general. Some of those photos you took are interesting and while I agree your bicycle was unfairly targeted (bicycle profiling?) I think some of the other photos beg the question, "How did they get here?"

S / May 27, 2011 at 11:09 am
Melt the bikes to build cars.
Brandon / May 27, 2011 at 11:12 am
This undertaking is a great idea, as there are way too many derelict bikes around the city, but obviously they need to be a bit more diligent in how they decide which bikes are abandoned or not.
SS24 / May 27, 2011 at 11:16 am
I enjoyed your article! thanks!! :)
rmcw / May 27, 2011 at 11:20 am
In fairness, it DOES look like you haven't cleaned or oiled your chain in months.
Raven / May 27, 2011 at 11:29 am
"War on bikes" ?

Julienne Lottering / May 27, 2011 at 11:35 am
BHAHAHAH! I agree, that weird carriage bike DOES deserve some type of ticket!
frodo / May 27, 2011 at 11:41 am
In fairness to Nick, you could use some touch-up paint on your frame and some oil on your chain. Nice basket though.
NG / May 27, 2011 at 11:45 am
Are you sure that's an authentic city issued notice? Did you call the number to check it out? This Nick guy could be a savy kid thief.
By the way, I like the Dutch bike too!
Mark / May 27, 2011 at 11:48 am
Is it possible that there was no point in tagging the bikes that were clearly abandoned and that the bylaw officer only tagged bikes that were in question?
Jane / May 27, 2011 at 11:53 am
thanks for the great article. the photos and your comments made me chuckle.

"This one I wasn't quite sure about, but I felt like it needed some kind of ticket too." I agree with the "some kind of ticket" part.
Heng / May 27, 2011 at 11:54 am
That orange bike is not hideous. The paint looks very cheerful and I bet the bike is extremely practical.
the lemur replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / May 27, 2011 at 11:55 am
If I'm not mistaken that's one of those Swedish Kronan bikes.
Sam Davies / May 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm
Well - in fairness, I would imagine it is not easy to decide what is abandoned and what is not. I guess they need something akin to the chalk system used for parked cars?

With that said, I'm curious if there is any process where you can inform the city that they are erroneous, or is the only safe option for you to move your bike? What is the process? If after 7 days, do they retrace the route and take away the bikes that are still there with tickets?

There really has to be an easier way to do this...
Eric / May 27, 2011 at 12:12 pm
As far as I understand it all you need to do is remove the notice from your bike. The idea is that they tag suspect bicycles that look like they've been left for a longish period of time and when they return a week or so later if the notice is still there they assume that bicycle is abandoned as no one has touched it in at least a week.

I could be wrong, and they definitely could do a better job explaining the procedure, but the only way they track which bikes are marked is by that yellow tag anyway.
Flay / May 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm
Hey some of those are my bikes, i ran out of room to park them in my backyard.
Joseph / May 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm
The bike melting happened to me once. I was working late, came out, and the only thing left was my lock. Turns out that thieves disassembled my wheel and took off with my bike! (then I learned the lesson to lock my bike always to the frame).
Melissa replying to a comment from Mark / May 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm
Good point Mark.. I hadn't thought of that. Although now that means my bike looked questionably abandoned.. gr!

That said, paint and some oil would help but I always thought scruffy bikes were the safest bet in Toronto to prevent theft. Nonetheless it was a pretty fun mini-project and it did make me realize how many really abandoned bikes there are out there.

Re: orange bike.. I'm smiling about that - hideous or not? Eye of the beholder but yes there is something sort of cheerful about it. The word hideous is funny.

I'm enjoying people's comments/dialogues - :)
Nina A / May 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm
"The next one was like some random nest of bikes arguing" LOLOLOL
Snowman / May 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm
In advance of rearranging the bike racks at Union all bikes were ultimately removed. Within a few days of the new configuration they were all back in various states of decay. Where do they come from and why?!? I was hoping this article would answer that question!
Pizza / May 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm
Ok Mark might be right, however this article was well written and I totally LOLOLOL'd.
Cee / May 27, 2011 at 01:00 pm
I noticed a bike that is regularly parked outside my work received a ticket the other day. Considering it comes and goes a few times a week (as does mine, which did not receive a ticket) I found it quite confounding. I'd be interested to know, what if anything they base their judgement on.
TANYA / May 27, 2011 at 01:19 pm
I like the orange bike.
WN / May 27, 2011 at 01:34 pm
Well, I suppose if it was in your "usual spot", Nick had noticed it one day, came back another day when you had it parked, then another, and decided it had been parked there for several days, never mind that you used it between Nick's visits. Same problem with the city's "can't park more than 3 hr" rule. If a car is parked with each parking officer's visit (than is more than three hours from the last visit), they'll assume it was sitting there the entire time even if you had actually driven away and came back. This can only be avoid if they mark the tires, but I can't see them marking bike tires.

I think a lot of bylaw enforcement is complaints-based, too. Maybe a store owner complained, so Nick was dispatched.
Laura / May 27, 2011 at 01:38 pm
The orange bike is a Kronan, a great bike you can't get in Toronto anymore....
Michelle / May 27, 2011 at 01:41 pm
Everyone makes mistakes. This is a necessary service, provided by the city, to avoid having our sidewalks littered with abandoned bikes. And it's not a "ticket" because there is no fine involved. As said earlier, just take the notice off your bike, thereby demonstrating that the bike is not abandoned, and keep parking there.
Dylan / May 27, 2011 at 02:53 pm
The question is: do they ever remove a bike? And where do the removed bikes go?
m / May 27, 2011 at 03:37 pm
your bike looks like shit dude, and your pithy rant doesn't make for a very good article
Hamburglar / May 27, 2011 at 03:49 pm
Great piece - very entertaining.
However, lets be serious about its premise.

Your basket is the only thing NOT fit for the scrapyard.
Treat your ride with respect people!
the lemur replying to a comment from Dylan / May 27, 2011 at 04:29 pm
Yes, they do:

I have some sympathy for being given a tag, but it's no fun being unable to lock to a post because of a bike that's been there for months.
AC / May 27, 2011 at 04:47 pm
Oil your chain...

A rusted chain is usually the criteria for an abandoned bike as it takes many moons outdoors to get that way.
lemonshark / May 27, 2011 at 05:31 pm
Yeah, they cut them away and take them to wherever abandoned bikes go. I saw them cutting off bikes in March on Carlton, but oddly, they left half of the very much abandoned ones there. I know, because they hadn't moved since we'd moved in months ago.

I always wonder what leads someone to abandon a bike.

and that orange one? I rather adore it. Bikes here in holland are like that, they're built strong. someone got smucked with a bus here and both bike and rider lived.

Zach / May 27, 2011 at 06:14 pm
Those orange bikes are awesome! I see them all the time in my rural South Korean city here. Great utility bike!
AJ / June 2, 2011 at 06:06 pm
The orange bike is the best bike on this post. Probably much sturdier and more practical than yours.
The rickshaw belongs to the owner of La Pallette, a member of streets are for people. He brought it over from India and proudly rides it around the city, promoting bicycle advocacy, and even offers strangers a ride.
You are so quick to judge!
But yes, agreed, it is ludicrous that you should receive a removal notice. I would love to know what these by-law enforcers use as criteria in order to issue one.
Melissa replying to a comment from AJ / June 4, 2011 at 09:03 am
Hi AJ and other defenders of the orange bike- wow, I know a lot about this bike now! I see it with more appreciative eyes as to form and function but maintain the color is a lot to handle when you aren't expecting it. But, that's just me. :)
Nigel replying to a comment from S / September 12, 2012 at 03:13 pm
melt the cars to make bikes.
Other Cities: Montreal