Locked to posts, ravaged by rust, missing essential parts, and worn by weather—what you see in the photo gallery above are the forlorn, abandoned bikes of Toronto.
You’ll find them all over the city: their warped wheels are badly in need of truing; their well-worn brakes need new cables and hand grips.
So far this year, the City of Toronto has removed over a thousand derelict bikes from our streets, 70 per cent of which were in such terrible shape they were sent immediately to the trash heap. And only a few people have shown up to reclaim their bikes from the City post-removal, a scenario that suggests the act of leaving a bike locked to a post (and therefore tying up a valuable parking space) with no intention of ever using it again seems to be the lazy person’s way of throwing away a two-wheeler that has surpassed its useful life.
Citizens can report abandoned bikes to the City with a call to 311. When a complaint is received, Right-of-Way Management attaches a notice to the bike if it’s in serviceable condition, giving the owner 14 days to remove it. If it isn’t rideable, the Solid Waste Division cuts the lock and takes it away. All of the unclaimed bicycles end up at the Ramsden Works Yard, from which owners still have another 60 days to claim their rides. After that, the bikes are sent to the scrap yard, or auctioned off if they’re rideable. Solid Waste also removes abandoned bikes during their annual city-wide spring clean up.
To survey the severity of the problem, I went out hunting for abandoned bikes. After only a couple hours of searching, I found more than 20 in the downtown core alone. However, it can be difficult to discern whether or not a bike has been truly forsaken, therefore, I set a number of criteria for what constitutes an abandoned bike. If the bike met two or more of the following conditions, it was considered abandoned:
- Missing or broken parts
- Rust on the frame and wheels
- Chain seized by rust
- Wheels, fenders, or forks bent out of shape
- Flat tires
If any of the bicycles in the photo gallery above look familiar, please do Toronto a favour and rescue your ride. It’s lonely, and needlessly taking up a parking space. Act now, before the City cuts the lock and hauls it to the dump.