There were three bicycles locked to the railings on Kevin Street not far from Boojum burrito bar on Monday at lunchtime, their wheels suspended slightly above the footpath.
Further down the street, another was locked to a pole, its frame turned left and its front wheel akimbo – blocking the narrow footpath.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Frank Kennedy says he notices that particular bike locked against that pole most days, for most of the day.
Which made him wonder: when is a bike an obstruction, and when is it abandoned? And when is it taken away?
Tagged for Takeaway
Dublin City Council brought in its current policy for when to remove bikes back in February 2016; it was voted in by councillors on the transport committee.
“There was a concern that the cycling stands that we had […] some of them were being occupied by bikes that had been long abandoned,” said Green Party Councillor Ciarán Cuffe, who heads up the committee.
A bike on a public street or park gets tagged for removal if it appears “to have been in the same location unmoved for a period of more than two weeks”, said a spokesperson in Dublin City Council’s Press Office.
Council workers look for signs. If a bike has flat tyres on both front and back wheels, or missing wheels, or buckled wheels. Or if it has a damaged frame or heavily rusted chains and sprockets, or has been in the same spot for some time, it’s tagged for removal.
These luggage-style tags are blue and weatherproof and council workers can insert into them the date they decided the bicycle was abandoned.
So far this year in the council’s south-east area, 19 tagged bikes have been removed by their owners, an indication that tagging is working well, said the council spokesperson.
Since January, in the south-east, the council’s public-realm officers have removed 52 bikes and 36 frames, the spokesperson added. Figures for the rest of the city are not available.
Any bicycles that are removed are put in storage for four weeks. It costs the city council €100 to remove and store each abandoned bicycle.
If its owner fails to come forward within four weeks, the bike is dumped or donated to Rothar, the community bike-repair shop.
The council once accidentally removed a bike frame, and had to give it back to its owner, according to the council spokesperson. (The cyclist hadn’t the money to replace his stolen wheels, so had left it there for longer than normal.)
Since February 2016, the council has, by mistake, also removed three “full bicycles”, which were locked to traffic poles in residential areas.
Who Leaves Their Bikes?
Some people might just abandon their bike because they don’t need it any more, says cycling advocate Cian Ginty of IrishCycle.com.
But vandalism is a serious issue too, he says. So far in 2017, a little over 40 percent of the “abandoned bicycles” picked up in the south-east area – which includes Camden Street and South Great George’s Street – were left with just their frames.
“But just because there’s more than a frame left doesn’t mean the other bikes weren’t vandalised,” says Ginty.
Bikes can be damaged at any time of day, he says. Sometimes, pedestrians walk by and accidentally knock them over, and don’t bother to prop them up again.
If a bicycle is badly damaged, what started as an issue of obstruction can become one of abandonment.
Dealing with Obstacles
Councillor Kennedy says constituents in his area have contacted him to raise concerns about fallen or akimbo bicycles blocking footpaths.
Dublin City Council has made progress on abandoned bicycles so surely it can also work to free up the footpaths from these obstacles too, he said. “It’s frustrating because some footpaths are narrow.”
Some cyclists are selfish in the way they park, he says.
Cyclists “are massively vulnerable with regards motorists but there are people who are far more vulnerable still than cyclists like, say, people in wheelchairs”, he says.
Cyclists need to use racks where they can, and the council needs to promote a positive message, encouraging cyclists to lock up properly without causing obstruction, says Kennedy.
The lack of infrastructure is a big issue though, says Cuffe of the Green Party. The city could do with more of the blue-hoops on poles, for cyclists to lock-up to.
“We put these in and then there was a move away from them which I can’t understand because I think they’re brilliant,” says Cuffe. “We haven’t rolled out any more of them, though.”