When is it OK to strip an abandoned bike from the street?

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Abandoned, alone, up for grabs? Via Smith & Ratfliff.

Over at the Brooklyn section of Reddit today, a good discussion is underway seeking the answer to a very practical question: At what point is it cool to “reclaim” parts of a bike that have been clearly abandoned? The author of the question says they’ve found a bike that is missing wheels, seat and a chain, but the frame is still usable. Keep in mind that since we recently learned most abandoned bikes will not be removed by the city, that basically means there’s a lot of free bike parts out there.

The answers vary from: don’t do it, because you can get busted for theft if the original owner has registered the serial number; to the advice to just do it “”very late at night.” What do you think?

This reporter’s opinion is that it depends on how familiar you are with the bike wreckage. If it’s something you’ve been passing every day for two weeks without any signs of movement, then by all means take the damn thing so you can free up some bike parking for the rest of us. Conversely, if you have had a bike part stolen or stripped, please move the wreckage of your wheels (either by donating them or trashing them) so that we don’t have this kind of confusion.

But give us your thoughts in the comments and we’ll fight over it with swords fashioned out of bike locks.

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  1. Interesting this as I find myself in a similar quandry. There is a bike under Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn that is clearly, clearly, been abandoned. It’s all but stripped with the exception of the handlebars and brakes (although oddly enough the brake blocks are gone?). My quandry is that the handle bars are a nice noodle style drop bar and I want the same type for my bike. Bike Karma says that I cannot take those damn beautiful bars!

  2. I see nothing morally wrong with taking an obviously abandoned bicycle, but do you really want to be the guy with a hack saw or a car jack breaking a lock?

  3. Is it your bike? No. So when is it okay to strip? Never. What would ever make anyone think it’s okay to take something that doesn’t belong to them? I tell ya, only in NY.

    • In fairness, rarely do we get to leave anything else on the street for an unlimited duration of time without it getting towed or disposed of by the sanitation department. I’m not saying that people should start taking other people bicycles. I am saying that if there has been an abandoned bike for a year and is missing most of it’s parts, it’s probably an eyesore and it’s removal would be a benefit to the community. Ideally the city would have some sort of system where it’s monitored for say, a month, and if it’s still there they remove it. However, that would probably cost a lot of money. I’m not sure there’s much harm in people adopting bike parts that are legitimately abandoned. One man’s trash and all that.

    • We’re talking about something that is essentially garbage. If you had a stripped bike frame chained outside your apartment that sat there for two months, and the authorities refused to remove it, I’m pretty sure you’d be thankful if someone came and got it.

  4. I don’t think 2 weeks is ample time to decide whether no one owns it. My take on this is to 1) inspect the lock (if it’s rusted and without signs of use, this is a good indicator the bike has been abandoned), 2) if, within a few MONTHS it doesn’t move or improve, then strip it.

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