Abandoned bikes stir the ire and imagination of readers

Abandoned bikes stir the ire and imagination of readers

The phenomenon of bikes that are locked up and then abandoned defies explanation, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying.

Our column last Saturday about bikes fastened to bicycle locking rings by people who didn’t return to ride them away stirred the imagination of readers, many of whom sent us notes outlining theories.

But we have yet to hear from anyone who can offer a definitive explanation for what can only be described as an enduring urban mystery.

Stuart Watson thinks locked-up bikes are “damaged by vandals while the rider is in a store or bar, etc. He/she sees the wheel kicked in and is forced to leave it. Dealing with it is not worth it since it was a cheap bike.”

Bill Colville said there’s a possibility that “some bikes abandoned in remote areas is a signal to drug dealers this area is protected.

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“Ever seen shoes tied up hanging off telephone lines? I’ve heard this is a form of communication between rivals. Food for thought, but otherwise they are an ugly site on our streets.”

Susan DeMartin said she’s lived downtown for decades and has noticed the “drug spillage from the Yonge/Wellesley area. Junkies stealing from retailers. Vandalizing. They all ride old beat up bikes. And they steal bikes.

“The police shut down a bike stealing ring, only to have another one start five minutes later. I have seen junkies dismantling bikes. I’ve also caught them casing an expensive bike. That’s when I approached and told them to leave not come back because I was watching them.”

John Taranu, a member of the Cycle Toronto Advocacy Committee, thinks bike thieves could be “using public bike parking rings to store their stolen bikes.

“Back when Igor Kenk was caught in 2008, some news outlets reported he had bought a shipment of thousands of cheap bike locks from overseas. Apparently he had run out of storage space and found it was easier to lock his stolen bikes to public bike parking rings, using cheap locks.”

One of the most haunting, beautiful notes we’ve ever gotten came from a reader who said her son, who suffered from “a particularly severe form of schizophrenia,” had an “obsession with bicycles.

“He loved to tinker with them, and from time to time he even worked in a bike shop.

“He would often convince himself that a locked up bike was his, so he would cut the lock and take it, and then lock it up somewhere else. Once he even took his sister’s bike from my back yard!

“Because of his mental state he’d lose track of where he left a particular bike, and move on to another one…or two…or five. At one time we thought he could have had 50-75 bikes (or more) that he had moved and locked up.

“My son died three years ago, so he isn’t doing this any more. And this certainly doesn’t account for all of the deserted bikes that are around. But I and his sisters remember him fondly when we see a tangle of deserted bikes lying by the side of the road.”


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