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Bedford chainsaw massacre! Cops cut bikes in Billyburg last night

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Cops sawed through bike locks and removed two-wheelers from Williamsburg last week, spraying sparks across Bedford Avenue and sparking debate over the city’s derelict bicycle policy.

Officers from North Brooklyn’s 94th Precinct say the only bikes that they removed during their monthly patrol of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg — the city’s cycling capital — were obviously abandoned.

But an onlooker who captured footage of the 8:30 pm removal on Oct. 1 claims at least two of the bikes targeted by cops were in fine shape.

“They didn’t look like beat-up bikes that had locked up there forever — they looked like they were being used,” said Ben Running, a Greenpoint resident and cyclist who filmed police removing the bikes from a street sign near the corner of North Eighth Street. “Bikes shouldn’t be removed without some kind of notice.”

So long as they do not alter or interfere with public traffic signals and signs, cyclists can legally lock their bike to street fixtures — but police retain the right to remove bikes that they deem “abandoned.”

And that was the case on Bedford Avenue last Thursday, according to Officer Cole Pletka, coordinator of the 94th Precinct’s auxiliary program.

“From a distance, they might have looked like they were rideable, but the bikes were on top of each and both wheels were bent,” said Pletka, who added that the bikes had been locked to the same no-parking sign for at least three months.

Pletka said that officers only remove bikes that exhibit numerous signs of abandonment including flat tires, missing handlebars and seats, and fully rusted chains.

“It clears up parking and makes the street look nicer,” he said.

The owners of bikes confiscated during the sweep can recover their two-wheelers at the 94th Precinct stationhouse on Meserole Avenue — provided they can prove ownership.

Bicycling activists agree that police should remove derelict bicycles because they occupy much-needed space on North Brooklyn bike racks, but they question the city’s no-notification policy.

“Removing abandoned bikes is certainly something the precincts should be actively involved in, but the way they are doing it now they turn out clipping the bad and the good,” said Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives.

The bike advocacy group and North Brooklyn’s Community Board 1 transportation committee have pushed for a “tag and clip” policy in which city officials would place notifications on seemingly abandoned bikes informing owners that they must move their two-wheelers before a specified date. When the deadline comes, the city could remove any tagged bikes.

Proponents say that such a program would protect bicycle commuters and clear up space for additional bicycle parking throughout the borough.

This isn’t the first time that the removal of locked bicycles in Williamsburg has become a controversy.

Cyclists were enraged when officers removed bikes locked to the Bedford Avenue subway station in 2005.

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Reader Feedback

Sid from Boerum Hill says:
its rare that they do this unless someone complains....
Oct. 2, 2009, 3:12 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
The city makes more off these stolen bikes at their auctions. I say stolen because the owners are never notified of the NYPD taking their property.
Oct. 2, 2009, 4:40 pm
eliot from brooklyn heights says:
Officer Pletka "told The Brooklyn Paper that the bikes had been locked to the same no-parking sign for at least three months."

If they're keeping such close tabs, why not hang a sign that says "If not moved within 5 days, this bike will be treated as abandoned property and removed by police"?

If they're not keeping such close tabs, the officer is lying.
Oct. 5, 2009, 10:47 am
A O from BKLYN says:
if this is done monthly how can a bike be there for over 3 months? do they have pics of the bikes each month and back track to make sure it the same bike? i Question their procedures on this. My bike is old and rusty but still works now i have to put a sign on my bike saying its not abandoned just a bad owner?
Oct. 5, 2009, 3:03 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
this is good news...finally the police have cleaned up the public street poles...who gave these bikers the right to lock their bikes on the street poles anyway? the bikers think they have special rights...they drive like nuts down Jay street and do not obey any laws and then wonder why they get hit by cars...they caused the accident. If you happen to be walking across the street they can mow you down and keep going...
Oct. 5, 2009, 3:49 pm
Lee from Roebling St. says:
A few weeks ago, I saw the cops loading hundreds of bikes into a garage by the precinct near the Y in Greenpoint. Then tonight, we saw a van on Roebling filled to the brim with bicycles. How can they all be derelict? I think the tagging system is a good one. Now I'm beginning to wonder if my bike and friend's bikes that we thought were "stolen" in my neighborhood (2 blocks from the Bedford stop) are in fact in the hands of policemen.
Nov. 4, 2009, 9:38 pm

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