Now the MTA is Stealing Bikes in Williamsburg

Back in July
, New York City’s Department of Transportation built sidewalk extensions and bike racks on a few automobile parking spaces-worth of street space near the Bedford Avenue subway stop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was the first time ever that on-street car parking had been replaced by bike parking in New York City.

The Bedford Avenue L subway station is a popular park-and-ride spot for bike commuters and demand for the 25-or-so new bike parking spots almost immediately exceeded supply. Even though the NYPD has been aggressive about sawing off locks and confiscating bicycles in the area over the years, commuters have continued to lock their bikes to street furniture, subway railings and fences in the area. Now, it looks like the MTA is getting into the act as well. Aaron Curran sends along 3-minutes worth of camera phone video showing MTA workers "seizing" bikes locked to the subway railing.

Granted, Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t control the MTA — Lee Sander does — but the question must be asked yet again: How does the seizure of commuters’ bicycles fit into New York City’s long-term sustainability plan? Why is the MTA putting resources towards sawing locks and stealing bicycles rather than simply ignoring bicycles as they have done for so long or, better yet, outfitting subway stations and buses with bike racks, as is so common in so many other cities around the world? Perhaps it is time for DOT to accelerate its plans to install another set of bike racks on the northwest corner of Bedford Ave. and N. 7th St., catercorner from the subway entrance.

  • If anyone is interested, here’s the law that the city cites when trying to justify the seizure of bicycles:

    As stupid as it is to park your bike on a stair case railing, it’s debatable whether or not these bikes are actually parked illegally.

  • josher

    after having to step over broken bikes hanging into sidewalk for several days I’m happy to see they cut those suckers off the railing.

    in my perspective the mta is just keeping the sidewalks safe, and the real problem is the freakin’ vultures who keep stealing parts off the bikes around the area, and jumping on rims and frames, ruining the bikes so they end up abandoned.

    I came back to my back one evening and found someone had let the air out of the tires, probably trying to get me to leave it there overnight so they could raid the thing for parts.

  • Joe

    Nobody wants the bikes to be a safety hazard, or for them to be damaged during the day. I’d also guess that few bike owners want to lock their bikes to the subway entrance.

    The problem is the MTA can’t seem to make 2+2 equal 4. They don’t seem to understand that the bikes are outside the station because of growing customer demand.

    By this seizure the MTA is in effect saying, “Hey, why are these bikes on our property? How dare they sully our subway entrance! We better get rid of them.”

    Instead of being reflexively hostile, what they should be saying is “Are these bikes from our riders? There must be a high demand for bike parking from our customers. Let’s see if we can work out a solution and provide them with better service.”

  • Lee

    Amen to the comments about how inconsiderate it is to lock one’s bike to the subway railing on those corners. You’ve got a massive amount of people trying to get up and down those stairs and then they’re met with a spaghetti-like tangle of bikes in their way.

    And yes… what can be done about the guys who sell bikes on the weekends and then permanently take up the spaces???? if they want to sell bikes, fine. But put them back in their truck and bring them back to their garage so that bike commuters can find a space !!

  • Hilary

    Could locked bicycle storage be created by permanently parking a truck next to the station?

  • Tom E.

    Narrow sidewalks? Anyone who complains about bikes is SERIOUSLY overlooking how much space the cars take up – in the road, and on both sides of the road.

    Pedestrians who get angry at bikes and bikers are directing their anger towards the wrong people, and the wrong form of transportation. Cars kill.

  • Jonathan

    I suggest that the MTA rents the space underneath the BQE on the south side of Met Ave and turns it into 23-hour daily bike parking. It’s only a short block away from the Met/Lorimer L/G stop, one stop east of Bedford Ave. If they removed all bikes parked there between three and four a.m. it would keep people (like the used-bike sellers) from using the racks as free warehouse space. Or charge people $1.50 a day like they do in the Netherlands.

  • Lee

    Hey, I’m no fan of cars, and I’m all for getting rid of them, but until that time,I’d like to be able to use the one form of transportation that’s always available to me: walking. And having bikes parked on the railings makes that damned difficult to do.

  • greenpoint

    First, thanks, guy, for the public service video. Much appreciated.

    Second, after hours of run around, I’ve been told: the MTA takes bikes to the Lost Property Unit at 42nd and 8th – which is apparently IN the subway station area.

    The numbers to call (which are always busy) are:

  • bahs

    called the 4501 number, got a person on phone, asked about a fictitious bike, and they seem efficient enough at dealing:
    when was was the bike clipped,
    what color,
    what make,
    … ok let me check.

  • Emily Litella

    Unbeleivable. 60 comments on this crap. Park the hell out of the pedestrian path. I’ve been poked in the ribs enough times by handlebars i wasnt expecting. The TA’s response is highly appropriate. MOVE ON people.

  • Nicholas

    Yeah people. Move on. I mean, do you know how many times I have been walking on a trail in a forest and a tree branch snags on my sweater? I just cut the tree down and keep on moving.

  • Edward Chin

    See the rich people own NYC now.That’s why I left to a more sompler life in Florida after 35 years of living in NYC.Besides since when did the MTA have any autority to seize personal property?Now if a individual on the street were caught sawing off a bike lock he/she would be a thief.So now this has nothing to do with bikes being chained up on city property.They are nothing but gangsters.Threatening you the civilian.your way of life…Fight back.Im sorry I gave up but I hate to see you folks give up so easily.It’s not an eye sore .its more the characterisics that made NYC in the first place..If they don’t like it they should leave…Does anyone agree with me?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I don’t, Edward. You think the rich people don’t own Florida too? I’ve been to Florida, it’s worse.

  • am journalist will write

    Hello all:

    I’m currently writing a story on this situation with the MTA.

    Please email if:

    a) you have (or believe you have) had the MTA confiscate your bike, or

    b) you have seen the MTA confiscating bikes.



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