Spring cleaning: Abandoned bikes are being tagged and removed now

The author wouldn't mind claiming this tagged-as-abandoned Peugot frame, but the city will either donate it to a non-profit it or send it to become scrap metal.

Spring cleaning: Abandoned bikes are being tagged and removed now

Story and photos by Tammy Thorne

Love affairs sometimes fizzle when the frosty weather arrives, but for us bike lovers here at dandyhorse, it’s like a punch in the heart to find out that about 1,000 bikes are abandoned each year in the City of Toronto.

These bikes are now being tagged and removed by City cleanup crews. Why would anyone abandon their bike in the dead of winter, leaving it to rust and be stripped by thieves? We’re not sure. We’ll have to get to work on the psychological profile (ala Criminal Minds) and report back, but in the meantime, City officials say why or how these bikes got left behind doesn’t matter to them – keeping the sidewalks clear is their number one priority.

Rob Orpin, director of collection and litter operations in solid waste management at the City of Toronto, says, “I'm looking at it from a cleaning perspective: It’s my job to make sure the streets are clean.” To that end, Orpin says they tag and pick up bikes twice a year. After the bikes are deemed derelict they are taken to the City’s Yonge Street collection yard where working bikes are kept for 30 days before being donated to Evergreen, an environmental non-profit dedicated to greening cities.

Claire Bodkin, a project manager in community development at Evergreen, says, “We are very fortunate to receive bikes through the City’s solid waste recycling program. We’ve done this for a number of years, and will do this again after the spring bike clean up.” Bodkin says, “The bikes are used in our Community Bike Hubs program – youth from under-served neighbourhoods access training on bike mechanics and entrepreneurship. As part of the program, each participant repairs and builds their own bike. So, that is where the bikes (and bike parts) end up! The City is also a partner in our Community Bike Hub program, and they recognize that we are a great fit for the bikes – through this initiative we are able to reduce waste, increase access to cycling, and empower youth.”

She says that Evergreen was connected to the city through their former program manager, Shah. You can read more about Shah and the Evergreen bike works program here in dandyhorse, from our youth and employment issue.

Orpin says about 400 or 500 “somewhat working bikes” per year are collected and the rest (about 1,000) are in bits. These bike bits become scrap metal. Bikes that are clearly derelict are removed immediately. But when there is some question about whether a bike is abandoned, the City puts a notification on the bike.

If a bike has been tagged in error and the owner does not want it to be removed, the owner should simply remove the tag and park the bike at a different location.

After 14 days, the City will remove any bicycles that remain tagged in the original location.

Last year, the City removed 813 derelict bikes. The abandoned bike cleanup, part of the City's spring cleanup program is a component of the Clean Toronto Together program.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Bike works at the Brick Works

Youth Master Mechanics: Charlie’s Freewheels

Central Commerce Collegiate’s innovative and popular Bike Repair and Maintenance course

Bike to School Project inspires new cyclists (new!)

Spring newsletter


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