21st Street Bike Rack Blog

A blog about the bike rack on West 21st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in New York City, and about urban bike usage, bike theft, and security

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Renewed interest

2 years on, there is a renewed interest in the Bike Rack Blog. There is a possibility of new posts soon. We are now in an era of interest in bike racks that was unknown to our forebears, those who survived without specialized locking equipment, nor municipal interest in providing hardware, through bleaker times than our own.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Good bye for now.

My obsession with locked bicycles unabated, I must discontinue this blog, because I have moved away from 21st Street. I did walk by there today, and saw an automobile tire sitting among the bikes. I will miss that bike rack, nexus for weirdness on the block of 21st Street between 8th and 9th Avenue. It's not the only thing on that block I will miss.


Friday, January 05, 2007


Originally uploaded by jimn.
The bike rack has become the place for everyone on the block to dump their old Chritmas trees. It smells nice, though.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The law on bicycle locking and abandoned bicycles in New York City

After the NYPD became hostile to Critical Mass, City Council Members Palma, Brewer, Martinez and Mendez proposed a law to better define what constitutes an abandoned bicycle.
On the night of the September 2004 Critical Mass ride, the New York City Police Department seized a number of bicycles on 36th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in what the City later characterized as an attempt to punish cyclists’ participation in, and prevent their continued participation, in the September Critical Mass bike ride. The City justified these seizures by claiming that section 16-122 (b) of the Administrative Code granted them the authority to seize any bicycles chained to public street fixtures as “other movable property.” The police have taken the position that this regulation makes it illegal for people to leave their bicycles unattended on a public street, whether or not they are chained to traffic signs or parking meters.

Nicely put, Councilmembers!

Of interest to anyone fascinated, as I am, by abandoned bicycles, is this section:

New York City Council finds that removing genuinely abandoned bicycles affixed to public property serves a legitimate governmental objective. Accordingly, in order to authorize the City to remove actually abandoned bicycles, and prevent bicycles that have not been abandoned from being impounded, the New York City Council finds that it is necessary to amend the Administrative Code in relation to the seizures of bicycles by (1) explicitly authorizing the seizure of actually abandoned bicycles, (b) creating a notice requirement in connection therewith, and (c) establishing procedures for the retrieval of abandoned bicycles seized pursuant to this section.

The fine for abandoning a bicycle is between $25 and $100.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mystery locking technique

Mystery locking technique
Originally uploaded by jimn.
This ancient technique involves laying your U-Lock next to the bike, both facing Mecca. When the Moon is retrograde in Mercury, you will not lose your bicycle. That is because there is no bicycle. There is only Jesus, for he sayeth "I am the one, not the bicycle". All this shall be revealed to you through breathing excercises, self-cleansing, and the administration of a poultice. If your bike has any body thetans on it, they will also be removed, though your bike will remain.

Incidentally, that lock has been sitting on the ground like that for several days.

Community Bikes

I wonder if a community bike program would work in New York City.

The NYPD says that the main reason people don't use their bikes in NYC is fear of theft, but I think that fear is a symptom of the fact that we don't have a bike culture here. That is, behind that statistic is the problem with people buying too-expensive, too-fancy bikes, not riding them much, and generally not having experience with locking and using a bike in the city.

I think bike theft is an almost completely solvable problem.

But it occurs to me that starting a community bike program here involves a lot of the same challenges that starting a community web site does. You'd need to put yourself in the place of the person using the system for the first time, and figure out why they would use it, where they're coming from, what's going to draw them in, and what's going to make them have a bad experience and go away forever.

Also, you need to deal with thieves and vandals (or spammers and script kiddies), and with the bizarre range of things that casual users will do to a system. This last one is particularly interesting to me. Whenever I design software for someone else to use, I try to predict their uses, guide them away from mistakes, and make sure they get good feedback when they do something wrong. Inevitably, they will do something with the system that I never predicted. You need a strong bicycle.

Why do I think a community bike program would work here? Well, New York City is flat and things are within a good biking distance of each other. The streets are wide, compared to a lot of places, and traffic is often slow. Essentially, people in New York will use community bikes if the bikes will get them to where they want to go faster. That's it.

Even if there's a risk of getting killed, people will opt to get to work or to the store 10 minutes faster. Just to be going faster would be hugely important to a lot of typical New Yorkers.

The parts could be stamped or RFID tagged to keep them from getting stolen. (The Copenhagen bikes are specially designed to prevent theft.) Not quite sure how to prevent theft en masse, some sort of organized scheme of theft. The delivery bike market, into which most bikes stolen here go, is a limited market. Anyway, if theft could be kept down to some low rate, maybe it wouldn't matter. A few new bikes a month would be part of the cost of running the program, and would be covered by money from ads on the bikes.

It would be nice if it happened.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New York faces all-day rush hour by 2030

Taxis of Evil

From CNN (AP, really):

By the year 2030, New York City could have so many people straining its infrastructure that it won't have enough electricity or housing to meet demand, and rush hour traffic will last all day.

The city of 8.2 million people must start planning and building now for the expected growth of 1 million more over the next 25 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a panel of experts warned.

More bike racks.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Originally uploaded by jimn.
Here's a Raleigh 20 folding bike, in decent but well-used shape. It's locked with the Kryptonite New York chain, or whatever they call teh square-link chain now, and a small Kryptonite U-lock. The front wheel was locked with a 1/2 inch cable which was cut. The front wheel was unbolted and taken.

Who is going to go to all this trouble for a 30-year-old steel 12-inch wheel? Plenty of people don't even lock both wheels, and often the unlocked one's quick-release!

Then again, bike thieves aren't always too smart. I know a guy who came out to find his wheel unbolted -- the thief didn't notice it was locked.