City looks to curb derelict bicycle scourge

Every week Gus Luna rides a bike to work at the Quality Grill and Gyro just off Buhre Avenue and locks it to a round, metal city-installed bike rack outside the store.

He is among the growing number of bicycle commuters in the borough, and across the city.

“People who work in Pelham Bay bike there in the morning and then in the afternoon they ride back. It’s cheaper than driving,” Luna said.

Just feet away two bikes sit illegally locked to a road sign, one of many places across the city where bikes can sit for days, weeks or even months before being removed by sanitation.

“It’s no good,” he said.

Cycling in New York City has nearly tripled in the last ten years, and by 4 percent in just the last year, according to the NYC Department of Transportation. But that has created a glut of derelict bikes locked to bike racks or street signs across the city.

Under current city law, a bicycle can be declared derelict and removed if it is crushed or not usable, it is missing parts, it has flat or missing tires or it has damaged handlebars or pedals or is 75 percent rusted.

However the DOS is proposing to change rules to lower the minimum to two characteristics and reducing the minimum rust requirement to 50 percent.

At Izzy’s Gourmet Deli on Westchester Avenue, cashier Ghassan Alkmel said while he didn’t think the problem was too serious in that area, he supported the city’s efforts to get derelict bikes off the street to make room for the growing number of cycling commuters.

“I know some parts of Brooklyn where the bikes will sit there for two or three weeks,” Alkmel said. “One day, someone will take a wheel and then another guy will take something else. So if the city came and took them after more than one or two days, I would support that.”

At an Tuesday, August 9 public hearing in Manhattan, Ben Smith of DOT said crushed, rusted and stripped bikes made New Yorkers more hesitant to bike.

“Such bicycles clog our city racks, taking up bicycle parking needed by our cyclists,” Smith told city officials on hand. “Ensuring the availability of convenient, secure, parking for bicyclists at their destination is important to encourage cycling as a mode of transportation throughout the city.”

But cycling advocates who spoke said proposed changes didn’t go far enough.

Julia Kite, policy and research manager of Transportation Alternatives, said last month alone, the city’s 311 service received 163 complaints about unusable bicycles chained to public and private property.

“The way it has been up until now, a bike could be totally unusable, but still not meet the criteria to be removed,” Kite said.

Pio Tsai, head of NYU Bike Share, told officials the amount of time bicycle is left in a single place was just as good an indication of being derelict as one that is missing parts or damaged. He recommended two weeks as a criteria to have a bike removed.

“A bicycle left in the same spot for two months is as derelict as a bicycle that has a broken wheel and is unable to be moved,” Tsai said.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at

More from Around NYC