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

Friday, September 29, 2006

Another abandoned bike

abandoned bike

Sometimes, after a bike gets stripped, its owner will just take the lock off and leave the bike at the rack.

There were a family of old beaters that their owners had painted. This is the last of them.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I almost didn't write this because I thought without a picture it wasn't a good enough story.

The other day, as I swung by the bike rack on my way in to the building, I noticed someone had spread birdseed on the ground under the bicycles. Not, mind you, anywhere else on the block. Just under the bikes locked to the rack.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Brian Lehrer talks to Iris Weinshall and Noah Budnick

Brian Lehrer talks about bike lanes and safety [14M MP3 file] on his show on WNYC. Not a bad talk. The "Bicyclist Injury and Fatality" Study has just been released. Relatively sane. DoT Commissioner Weinshall says "our goal is to keep the traffic moving at a reasonable pace."

Some other interesting items: she makes a defense of one-way streets, Budnick stresses health benefits of cycling. The helmet law is discussed. TA fears it will decrease cycling, and the more bikes on the street, the safer it is for them. Brian brings up the anti-bike-lane argument, too. See "Effective Cycling". Budnick doesn't like the idea.

And this gem: Chuck Schumer's an avid cyclist. Who knew? He complains to his wife, DoT Commissioner Weinshall, about the quality of bike lanes!

(Link via Transportation Alternatives)

See also: this talk with Ryan Russo, New York City Department of Transportation's Director for Street Management and Safety, over at StreetsBlog. He's a user of the bicycle as well. This is a photograph of his bicycle:

Russo's bike

That's an OK lock. Not great. If you'd ever seen someone break one of those with a 2x4 you'd be less confident in the standard U-lock. Also, what about the back wheel? I shall have to bring the matter up if I ever meet Mr. Russo.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Stolen bikes

missing bike
missing bike - not mine
Originally uploaded by jimn.

There's this couple who live on the bock and lock their really nice Kronan bikes to the rack.

They use the bikes a lot and I've talked to the dude and he's a nice guy.

There was a program someone put forth to remove the dead bikes from the rack. I don't know who, but they marked the dead bikes with a red ribbon. If anyone didn't want their bikes removed, he or she should remove the ribbon (see previous post for more about this).

ANYway, the bike removal day came and only a couple of dead bikes were removed, from one of the racks. At the same time, this guy's bike was stolen. Same people? Mistake? Who knows?

Then, just this morning, this:

The other one's gone.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cut cable lock

Cut cable lock
Originally uploaded by jimn.
One time, I came out to find my cable cut. The cable was holding the wheels, but the frame was locked with a decent U-lock.

Nothing was removed from the bike, the cable was just cut.

Was someone interrupted, or did they not see the U-lock until after they cut the cable? Anyway they did not seeal the wheels, which cost more than $200 US.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Note on a bike

Note, written on a piece of cloth and tied to a green bike that's been rusting on the bike rack for about 2 years.

The note explains that the bike isn't abndoned, the lock is just frozen. The other bike that the frozen lock is holding can be thrown away, but the owner will "fix up" the green one, presumably after someone else removes the lock.

The owner must live on the block. He must see the bikes every day, one stripped of wheels and rusted to death, the other one appearing to be in good shape, but with moving parts rusted into one solid piece. What is the psychological toll of watching a bike rust away and get stripped of parts? I can barely take it, and it's not even my machine.

I'm going to leave a note offering to help with the lock. I bet it can be opened with enough oil and the key.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

can't prepare for everything.

(from The Bluebird Bicycle)

Parts thief

I usually lock my road bike over on the bike rack. See, my girlfriend's building doesn't allow bikes. I spraypainted my bike flat black (best stealthy color) and it's fairly unnoticable most of the time.

I also lock it fairly thoroughly. I have a Kryptonite "New York" chain for the frame and the front wheel, and an OnGuard Mini Pit-Bull for the rear (which got good reviews in this comparison of bike lock cutting times). There's a piece of bike chain holding the seat in place.

ANYway, earlier this year I bought a 49-tooth chainring from the LBS, thinking it would make more of my freewheel in the back usable. I had a standard 52 or 53 tooth chainring for the large one in the front, but I'd never use it with the smaller 11 and 13-tooth sprockets in the back.

A few weeks later someone stole it.

Now, getting parts stolen off a bike is no big news, BUT what parts thief is so damn specific that he'd steal a specific size of chainring - probably the only one locked on the street anywhere in New York - when there are thousands of the standard ones out there? Not only that - he didn't even steal the other chainring. Removing the larger one means you have to unbolt both of them!

The likely answer is that it was someone wanting to adjust the gearing on a fixed-gear bike.

The solution is to lock the chainrings! Notice that the mini u-lock gets the rear wheel, frame, and the new chainring in one shot. Since this happened I also lock the pedals, sometimes.

Bike rack statement

"Get bikes off the sidewalk and help[s] deny drivers the promise of on-demand stowage for multi-ton conveyances, making a quiet statement about equitable allocation of public space."

Some research on bike racks turns up a little information

Just noticed on the CITYRACKS page of the DoT that while "[t]he City assumes responsibility for the rack but not the bicycles parked at it", there is a repair form (pdf) which might help get some of the dead bikes removed. Is a rack full of rusting bikes in need of repair? It's just the sort of beureaucratic misuse of words that gives one hope.

"The City of New York has no policy on removing abandoned bicycles."

Transportation Alternatives says

The City of New York needs to issue a policy statement affirming that it is not illegal to lock a bicycle to a street sign or lamppost, bus stop pole or parking meter, so long as the parked bicycle does not interfere with the fixture’s operation. [...] The Fire, Parks, Police, Sanitation and Transportation Departments and MTA need to agree on a standard policy for identifying, tagging and removing abandoned bicycles and for giving bike owners an opportunity to reclaim them.

Friday, September 01, 2006


It's a good idea to write about something you're passionate about. I'm obsessed with the bike rack across the street from my house.

I live on West 21st Street in Manhattan. There's a rack - actually several racks clustered together - across the street. It was bolted there about 5 years ago by the DOT. My girlfriend and I lock our bikes there.

Sometimes I dream about this bike rack.