Cyclists Be Warned: New City Bike Racks May Not be Secure

bike_rack.jpg 

From: stephanie — redbike606[at]yahoo[dot]com
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2007 11:54 PM
To: tips@streetsblog.org
Subject: atlantic ave bike racks

Hi Streetsblog,

You may have noticed that there are new bike racks all up on Atlantic Avenue [in Brooklyn]. They’ve been installed all along Atlantic, from Clinton to 4th avenue, on both sides of the street.  

Initially, I was thrilled to finally have decent bike parking on my block. Unfortunately, I’m writing to tell you that these racks are insecure.  My bike was stolen off of one last night.  The thieves pulled the entire rack out of the ground, and took my bike and lock with it. The rack was secured into the ground with 3 inch bolts, but this does not seem to be secure enough.

Can you let your readers know that about this, and not to trust these new racks? Can you help me make a ruckus with whoever is responsible, to make sure that SECURE racks are installed, and not superficially? I’d hate to see this happen to someone else.  

Thanks Streetsblog,

-Stephanie

P.S. Pictures of my bike, and the rack, can be found here: http://flickr.com/photos/voodoohoodoo/. Also, can you keep your eye out for a red voodoo hoodoo AL mountain bike? It has special wheel and seat locks, that are only unlockable with a special key.

  • Aaron – I assume that you’re going to make sure that the friendly folks at T.A. are aware of this? They know who to talk to at DOT ASAP…

  • Aaron G.

    Assuming that one even finds a secure rack, what’s to prevent the NYPD from cutting your lock and stealing your bike? (without even providing advance notice)

    **VIDEOS**
    CBS2: http://blip.tv/file/257573
    NY1: http://blip.tv/file/257563
    TIME’S UP!: http://blip.tv/file/252942/

  • James

    OK, I’ll be the jerk–are these racks intended for overnight (and/or permanent) bike parking, or for temporary daytime lockups?

    I’m thinking no one’s going to rip one out of the concrete in broad daylight, tho obvs better if they were more secure anyway.

  • James,

    What difference does it make? This is New York City. I’m sure somebody’s got the nerve to rip one out of the sidewalk in broad daylight. And, once again, this is New York…the city that never sleeps. If you put a bike rack out in an open public space, it will be used all hours of the day and night.

    These need to be replaced with more secure racks ASAP.

  • Steve

    This is absolutely chilling . . . this is what I lock up to in front of my house. What length bolts do they use to attach meters?

  • anonymous

    It doesn’t take nerve to rip one of those out in broad daylight, just a reflective vest and a clipboard to make yourself look like a DOT official. As for why the bike racks are so awful, I’d guess that it’s either because this way is cheaper, or else because it’s required for the safety of cars that they break away from the ground when a car runs into them.

  • mfs

    I locked up to a new rack on North 7th St in Williamsburg that was pretty unstable the other day. I’m pretty sure two people could have pulled it out of the ground.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    You can pop those things up in about 20 seconds with a pinch bar.

    Locks keep your friends out.

  • Ed H.

    Pretty close to Atlantic, on Court Street today I saw two bike racks hunched over, loose from their footings in the concrete. This is pretty disconcerting.

  • Toby

    I have had cops tell me that the safest thing you can do is lock your bike to a parking meter.

  • andrew

    Any article about stealing bikes in NYC needs to be accompanied by this video:

  • I’ve updated my flickr to include a picture of one of the bolts that are supposedly “securing” these racks to the ground.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/voodoohoodoo/538835360/

    It is not even as long as a Metrocard.

    I’ve called 311 and registered an official complaint with the Department of Transportation. If you’re upset about these racks, I’d appreciate if you would log in your own complaint, too.

    I’ve been advised that the best way to affect change within the city is to sue. I am not a litigation happy person, but I am considering it because I don’t want to see this happening to someone else.

    Transportation Alternatives told me that the DOT was “dismissive at best” with their response.

  • The New York City Department of Transportation is extremely proud of the security level offered by our CityRacks bicycle parking. Since 1996, we have installed approximately 4,000 CityRacks on the sidewalks on New York City. In 2002, we redesigned our rack with square tubing to increase security and resist pipe cutter attacks. All of our racks now utilize a heavy 0.25 gauge square tube steel.

    The racks are securely flange-mounted to concrete sidewalks and can only be dislodged when subjected to extreme force such as when a vehicle illegally mounts the sidewalk and drives into the rack.

    However, with thousands of racks throughout all five boroughs of the City, racks are occasionally damaged by errant vehicles and in some cases vandals. We take damage to our racks seriously and we inspect and repair damaged racks as soon as we learn about the damage. We have will have the damaged rack on Atlantic Avenue restored immediately and will have ALL of the newly installed racks on Atlantic Avenue inspected to ensure that they are secure.

    Please help us keep CityRacks secure by reporting damaged CityRacks to 311.

  • CRN

    NYCDOT-

    You’ve got to be joking. You repair CityRacks “as soon as you learn about the damage”??? There’s a rack at the Carroll St F/G stop that was cut by bike thieves four or five years ago. I lived on that corner for three years and made a near-monthly practice of calling 311 to report the rack and ask for replacement; twice, I filled out and mailed in a CityRacks request form. One of those times, I even got the guy who works at the newsstand nearby to sign the request as a business owner. Even with all that effort, the broken rack had not been repaired or replaced by the time I moved away.

    I’m very pleased to see that when TransAlt and Streetsblog get involved, you at least promise to take action. As far as 311 having any practical use for bike-rack purposes, though, I’ll believe it when I see it.

    -CRN

  • That’s so crazy, it look like it would be a lot of work to rip that out of concrete even if it’s not the most secure. Must of been a really nice bike!

  • ddartley

    NYCDOT:

    Very nice to see you here. Please check in often. (Especially for my comments.)

  • Steve

    NYCDOT: Are you able to say how many reports the City (both NYCDOT and 311) has received of a bicycle theft involving the vandalization of a CityRack, over the last year, or for any year?

    Also, concerning the following statement: “The racks . . . can only be dislodged when subjected to extreme force such as when a vehicle illegally mounts the sidewalk and drives into the rack.”

    Have tests been conducted with a crowbar or other device that would apply upward force on the bolts securing the rack, as opposed to an oblique force (such as the vehicle hitting the rack that you mention)?

    Thanks for any info you can provide.

  • DOT is systematically removing parking meters and replacing them with Muni-Meters throughout the city. Instead of removing the posts, the DOT should simply remove the parking meter heads, leave the posts firmly attached to the sidewalk, and drill holes in the posts big enough for U-locks and cables. That way, the old parking meter posts could be turned into bike racks.

  • mattio

    John, that’s a great idea. but i’d suggest adding a plate on top of the post rather than drilling holes for ulocks and cables – that way, you can circle the post with a u-lock or appropriately-sized chain, without fear of the bike and lock being lifted off.

  • david

    If the bike racks had a horizontal bar across the bottom (between the feet) then even if the rack were removed from the sidewalk you wouldnt be able to remove the bikes.

  • George

    Sorry about your bike. When you chain outside, take your seat with you, overnight take other stuff like the front wheel and all skewers. Etching you name on various parts might also help. Wrapping the frame with tape might also help. Quick release pedals (MKS) and chains exist.

  • The post by “NYCDOT” is misleading. My experience has been that if you call 311 about a bike rack problem, they will, after a long delay, give you a phone number for a NYCDoT complaint line. This is just one of the many things 311 doesn’t work for, like reporting problems on any of NYC Greenways in parks or along highways.

  • Almost two years ago, I wrote to Mayor Bloomberg to request the installation of a bike rack in front of the employees entrance to Civil Court. About four months ago, someone from the DOT called me and said there was no need for a bike rack at the employees entrance because there are bike racks by the public entrances to the courthouse. I said I was afraid to use those racks because the bike might be stolen if it was parked there all day. I said that a court officer is present at the employees entrance all day, so a bike rack should be installed there since theft was unlikely. To date, no bike rack has been installed at the employees entrance. I feel like I wasted my time.

  • Steve

    18-20, There are no shortage of deisgns for combination parking meters/bike racks:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/insidestory/191011847/

    http://www.sunshineu-lok.com/

    http://bikerackparking.com/index.html

    But since PlaNYC calls for replacement of meters with muni-meters, the city is not likely to replace the old style of meters with new one-meter per space meters that accomodate bicycles. I don’t expect the city to modify the design of the muni-meters to incorporate bike parking, either, because they are probably worried about the inconvenience to muni-meter users posed by reaching over a bicycle.

    I can live with the current City Racks designs, I just think that they should be secured at least as well as parking meters–after all, most bicycles worth as much, if not more, than the cash in a typical parking meter.