Alex Goldmark is the senior producer of Note to Self, a storytelling show about how technology is changing society. Subscribe here to get Note to Self shows delivered right to your devices. Follow him on Twitter @alexgoldmark.
Help Us Map All the Abandoned Bikes in NYC
Friday, April 27, 2012 - 05:41 PM
UPDATE 06/11/2012: We have received over 500 submissions. We have submitted 151 locations of abandoned bikes to the City of New York. They won't accept more at this time unless we call each bike in, one by one. Here's that story, with a new map you can use to update or help us call those in.
For now if you want a derelict bike removed, be sure it meets the criteria below, and then call it in to 311.
ORIGINAL POST: Bike carcasses are a common site around New York City -- a dented frame chained to a street sign, wheels pilfered, seat long ago appropriated, rusted chain and remnants blighting even the swankiest of sidewalks like a broken window. What's a citizen to do?
We are no longer taking submissions.
Or email a picture to email@example.com and we'll add it to this map:
In late 2010, the Department of Sanitation of NY was given jurisdiction to remove derelict bikes (they also remove derelict automobiles) from public property like street signs. In January of this year, that power was extended to bike racks too. In 18 months, 40 have been snipped free to make room for functioning bikes to park.
The process is clunky: you call 311, must answer a series of questions confirming the condition of the bike, and explain to what it is locked, then you are transferred to a Specialist who takes the claim. DSNY then tags the bike, and seven days later returns to claim it as abandoned, removes and recycles it.
Forgive us this quick bit of math to make a point. There are about 500,000 occasional bike riders in New York City (they ride several times a month according to an NYC estimate). The bicycle advocacy group Transportation Alternatives estimates 200,000 daily riders. There's no official daily estimate for bike ridership, but the DOT counts six busy locations once a year for a snapshot, and at those six hotspots alone there are almost 19,000 commuting bike riders a day. There are a bit over 13,000 official Department of Transportation bike racks in NYC.
Some racks hold more bikes than others (let's say around two to ten). Many buildings also have bike storage or private bike racks, and of course there's the more common street sign, railing or, unfortunately for at least one city initiative, a tree to chain a bike to. So there's space to lock up in New York, but not enough prime space. Especially near busy subway stations where racks fill up, abandoned bikes are in the way.
What counts as an abandoned bike? That is determined by these criteria set by the DSNY. Three of the five must be met to be removed:
- appears to be crushed or unusable
- parts are missing other than seat or front wheel
- bicycle has a flat or missing tires
- the handlebars or pedals are damaged, or existing forks, frames or rims are bent
- 75 percent or more of the bicycle is rusted
The bike must be locked to public property including: light poles, bus stop signs, parking meters, trees, tree pit railings and bike racks.
DSNY says they receive many calls about possible abandoned bikes, "but upon inspection by our field supervisor a large percentage of the bicycles don’t meet the criteria to be classified as derelict."
ADD TO THE MAP
So if you spot an abandoned bike, snap a picture and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If the location feature on your phone or camera is enabled for photos, we can pinpoint the exact location right away. Otherwise, include information in your email about where the bike is and what else you know about it, and we'll manually put it on the map.
We'll also add it to the open-source database maintained by SeeClickFix for non-emergency, civic issues. There, you can comment on and update information about abandoned bikes in your area in the days and weeks to come.
The map here is fully embeddable, too. Just use the link on the map itself.