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This is where bicycles come to die in Toronto

Posted by Chris Bateman / June 4, 2013

toronto bike scrapThe death of a bicycle in Toronto can come about in a number of undignified ways. It's a harsh reality that untimely accidents, mechanical failures, and abandonment potentially await even the most beloved of steeds. This spring, the city performed its annual clean-up blitz, tagging and removing the tragic, unwanted bikes left hogging lock space while at the same time filling potholes, removing graffiti, and picking up litter exposed by melting snow.

The collected bikes are sorted into two piles under the supervision of Mike Perikleous and Ken Ridgeway at the city's solid waste management division: those in good enough shape to be sold at auction and those so battered they only have value as scrap metal. The latter are typically missing vital parts or in the process of being consumed by rust.

toronto bike scrapWhen an abandoned bicycle is reported using 311 or spotted by one of the litter operations team, the city issues a notice warning the owner the bike will shortly be removed if it isn't claimed. If the bike is still there after 7 days, the city cuts it free and holds it in storage for 60 days.

Though there's a burst of activity at the end of winter, the city tags and removes bicycles year-round.

Very few people come to claim bikes at this stage. The city averages a 1,000 removals a year and only three were reclaimed in 2012, according to Kyp Perikleous from the city's Right of Way Management team. During this year's spring clean-up, 322 bikes were tagged for removal and not one was claimed by the owner.

The lucky ones get a new chance of life at auction. "We put them in containers and ship them down to fleet services (the city division responsible for vehicles)," says Mike Perikleous as we inspect the current stockpile of disintegrating bikes. "They take 5 or 10, bunch them up, and auction them off in a bundle ... to auction them off one by one would take ages."

toronto bike scrapThe auctions are held on the last Saturday of every month at North Toronto Auction in Innisfil. Typically the bundles go for between $10 and $30. The city received just $741.44 - roughly $3.88 a bike - in 2012 before the cost of shipping and sales commission was deducted.

"We don't make much money on this," says Vukadin Lalovic from fleet services. "In September 2012 we sold 60 bikes. It was 10 in a bundle for between $10 and $15. In January 2012 we didn't have any, in February nothing."

The bikes that are sent for scrap fetch between 5 and 10 cents a pound. Recyclers remove non-metal parts (handlebar grips, plastic pedals, etc.) and throw what's left of the unwanted bikes into a giant shredder designed to tear apart cars. The machine separates out steel, aluminum, and other metals, and the raw materials are melted down and re-sold.

There's a chance the metal could eventually become a brand new bicycle, thus completing the cycle of life, but an abandoned junker is just as likely to end up as a can of beans or a washing machine.

Should the city re-think how it handles the abandoned bicycles? Would it make sense to donate the bikes to charity or organizations like Bike Sauce and Bike Pirates?


toronto bike scraptoronto bike scraptoronto bike scraptoronto bike scraptoronto bike scrapChris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Chris Bateman/blogTO



the lemur / June 4, 2013 at 01:09 pm
Where is this?

What happens to the non-metal parts? I see some of these bikes still have bells, reflectors, maybe even lights - the city could give those away and people would have less of an excuse not to get them for their own bikes.
Skye / June 4, 2013 at 01:13 pm
They sell them in lots of ten? I get that it's easier, but how many private citizens have room to store ten bikes, or even bring ten bikes home from auction? Resalers and secondhand stores are their targets, I guess.

And INNISFIL? That's up on Lake Simcoe!
I need a bike. / June 4, 2013 at 01:20 pm
Isn't there a school's pool full of these too?
E. Toby Coke replying to a comment from the lemur / June 4, 2013 at 02:20 pm
"... some of these bikes still have bells, reflectors, maybe even lights - the city could give those away and people would have less of an excuse not to get them for their own bikes"

If a person is too careless to put a reflector or bell on their own bike, on their own dollar, should the city do it for them?

AV / June 4, 2013 at 02:38 pm
How are you guys going to delete the google map link that was posted above to locate the bikes? What a bunch of children running this blog
the lemur replying to a comment from E. Toby Coke / June 4, 2013 at 02:40 pm
No, not actually put the reflector or bell on the bike for them. Just make them available.

I think CycleTO occasionally gives away reflectors. The city could do something similar, but on second thought that would mean a potential reduction in revenue from fines for not having a bell, etc.
Antho replying to a comment from E. Toby Coke / June 4, 2013 at 03:18 pm
Geez Mr. Grumpy pants, did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.
E. Toby Coke replying to a comment from Antho / June 4, 2013 at 04:06 pm
"Geez Mr. Grumpy pants, did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."

Nope, just legitimately, respectfully questioning the idea put forth by the lemur (who responded in kind).

What's YOUR contribution here?
Sandra / June 4, 2013 at 05:38 pm
Any idea how we can just get parts? I'm looking for unusable bike chains for something other than cycling. Would love to take them off their hands.
Spoke / June 4, 2013 at 06:15 pm
Just the name Innisfil sounds gives me the creeps. These bikes deserve a better fate.

There is a goldmine of projects and parts in this collection. Can I buy a rummage licence?
Chris West / June 4, 2013 at 06:37 pm
It's a shame that the city has to dispose of people's garbage like this. I hope they made more than $741.44 in their scrap metal dealing, otherwise that's probably not enough money for a weeks worth of work. Setting up a time for citizens to pick them apart then clean up the mess would just add more to the cost.

Is the city in a legal position to dispose of items like this other than the scrap or auction process? Has anybody from Bike Sauce or Bike Pirates approached the city about this? If it came down to paying $3.88 per bike for the lot I'm sure we could find donations.
Steve / June 4, 2013 at 07:17 pm
This hurts me to my core.

I have been looking to buy a bicycle as the one i had was stolen last year.

I would love to be able to pick up a forgotten/abandoned bike on which i could do my own minor repairs, at a price that i could actually afford (
Tom / June 4, 2013 at 10:23 pm
WOW those bikes are still use-able. Why aren't we donating them communities or if we can't use them donate them to other countries? I guess it takes alot of time to fix them up and then ship them around. Who's complaining?
Brad / June 4, 2013 at 11:31 pm
Maybe the city would make more money if they didn't auction them off in f--king INNISFIL. How is anyone who could actually make use of a bike supposed to get there? That's an hour away by car, five hours by bike and sixteen hours by walking ONE WAY.
Chino / June 4, 2013 at 11:49 pm
I thought these bikes were auctioned off at that old police station just west of liberty village??

other than kids, why would anyone in Innisfil want to buy a bike? if they auctioned them off in the city where people use bikes for transportation and recreation I'm sure you'd see people willing to pay more than $3.88 for a bike. I'd get a few bikes myself and would be willing to pay $20-$50 per bike.

you'd see more revenue for the city (at least to cover the initiatives operating costs), and more bikes on the road.

oh wait...more bikes on the road. now I know why this happens in Innisfil.
soybomb / June 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm
not only should these bikes go to bike pirates, bike sauce or the community cycling network... but there should be more community cycling shops like them.
M Nelson / June 5, 2013 at 05:57 pm
I think that they should introduce a white bike program- take all the bikes, tune them up spray paint them a solid white color and have them placed around the city to ride for free- there is no drop off place just wherever the end destination is, for another person to pick up and ride...
hamish / June 5, 2013 at 09:07 pm
Has anybody wondered about the "Why?" for bikes being abandoned?
And yes, transporting them to Innisfil seems silly; and while some are indubitably hulks best recycled, others are likely gems.
Ben / June 6, 2013 at 11:22 am
That one rusted out chain looks a little janky!
Jason Kucherawy / June 9, 2013 at 09:40 pm
Why don't they paint them white and leave them around for people to use? One word: liability.
Greg / June 10, 2013 at 07:17 am
I'd be surprised if BikeSauce or Bike Pirates had room to store these bikes, Lee alone private citizens. Why not donate them to local high schools so teens can learn about bike mechanics?
Brian McGregor / February 3, 2014 at 04:35 pm
Hi Chris:

Who do I contact about these bicycles left in these conditions. I'm from northern ontario and I re-cycle bicycles. I restore bicycles and sell them at a reduced rate for low income families. I also give them away once they are restored. Please provide me with the contact information.

Thank you

Brian McGregor
Jeff Farrell / March 14, 2014 at 01:21 am
The only real issue with abandoned bikes is the fact that they are chained or locked to something. If the bikes were just set free then the general public would take care of the parts or entire bike. I have been frustrated at seeing a number of abandoned bikes locked up around the city and I wanted to know when I could have permission to take the pieces I wanted. The city doesn't seem to be benefiting much from this auction company. how about they just sell the bikes in lots of 10 for lets say 30$ bucks. If someone like myself wanted one of them, we could buy the lot and give away what we didn't want. The city could even do this once a year, instead of several times and that would generate interest as well as cut down on costs. / May 7, 2014 at 03:11 pm
The male then dissolves into the female and finally ends up as nothing more than a few hints suggesting that keeping a number
of action ranges. So far the fly fishing community at large.
Frankie / May 26, 2014 at 04:18 pm
Can someone please say where is this place ,or how to get In touch with them
William Wu / June 25, 2014 at 06:29 am
My bicycle which bought in Canadian Tire was stolen. Expensive. How about to sell the died bicycle and we can save money
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