Can you lock your bike to a New York road sign? The DOT chief will not say
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North Queens police confiscated a bunch of bikes they said were illegally locked to road signs and bragged about the seizure on social media Tuesday night. But the city’s transportation official declined to say whether bikers could lock their two-wheelers to city-owned poles, a widespread practice that exists in a legal gray area, experts say.
“I’m not going to comment on this until I have a chance to speak to the police and find out what really happened here,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman told amNewYork Metro during of an independent press conference on Wednesday morning.
The 107th NYPD Constituency sent the tweet now deleted with photos of officers loading the bikes into the back of a truck after removing them from DOT road signs near 141st Street and 78th Road in Flushing.
“Attaching your bike to these signs is illegal and can be dangerous for pedestrians,” the tweet read.
Deleted but not forgotten pic.twitter.com/cVRaeR8WSJ
– BrandonWC (@BrandonWC) September 8, 2021
The post quickly sparked reactions online, especially given the well-documented illegal parking by the police department (and other government agencies) in bike lanes and on sidewalks.
“THIS is the illegal parking on the sidewalks that the @NYPDnews chooses to enforce,” wrote Corruption Placards, an anonymous Twitter account dedicated to cataloging drivers using government-issued placards to park illegally.
THIS is the illegal parking on the sidewalk that the @NYPDnews chooses to apply? https://t.co/mLkTP6Jfz5
– sign corruption (@placardabuse) September 8, 2021
The cops did not cite a specific law to justify their actions, and the police press office did not respond to comments.
In the past, the city has cited section 16-122 (b) of the New York City Administrative Code, which prohibits people from attaching their property to any street or public place.
The law is rarely enforced for bikes locked to traffic signs, according to Jon Orcutt, former DOT director and now Bike New York advocate.
“There really is no harm in locking a bike to a typical DOT parking sign,” Orcutt said. “What the precinct did last night was totally by surprise and without warning.”
A DOT representative did not respond to a follow-up question asking if Gutman spoke to officers at the 107th Ward to “find out what really happened here.”
In 2004, five cyclists sued the city after police sawed off their bike locks attached to traffic signs and parking meters in Manhattan, during a critical mass protest they participated in.
An attorney for those plaintiffs said police need to give cyclists some sort of notification before removing the bikes.
“Due process requires some sort of before or after notice,” Gideon Oliver Orion told amNewYork Metro. “If the cops just cut the locks on the bikes, there is no notice.”
Additionally, Astoria’s 114th Ward previously said metal poles like stop signs are good places to lock bikes.
The local compound in my neighborhood just recommended locking bikes to signs? !! There must be a better use of your time. pic.twitter.com/4S9Sdf0pVb
– Kay’s Wall (@RocksOutBoxOut) September 8, 2021
“There’s a huge contradiction between what one hand says and what the other does,” Oliver said.
Due to the shortage of officially sanctioned bike racks, cyclists regularly resort to locking their bikes to signs, construction sheds or other fences.
DOT has 30,490 bike racks across the city, according to spokesperson Scott Gastel, and the agency wants to add 10,000 more by the end of 2022. They have installed 2,750 so far. .
However, this is unlikely to meet demand, as there were 1.6 million cyclists in the city in 2019 and that number has only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic bicycle boom.
The 107th constituency’s Twitter account deleted the controversial post on Wednesday, and a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed the cops will no longer do it.
“We are on track to install 10,000 new bicycle parking spaces by the end of next year, but that doesn’t mean fully functional bicycles need to be taken off the streets. This practice will not continue, ”Mitch Schwartz said in a statement. “We embrace the mission to end automobile culture, which means supporting and encouraging cycling across the city. “
Schwartz added that owners can collect bikes by going to the police station with photo ID and proof of ownership, such as a receipt or photo of the bike.