Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.
Too often, racks are taken up by the carcasses of bikes that have long been abandoned.
Everybody knows that parking is a big problem in New York. Sometimes it seems as if there’s no place to secure your vehicle. It can be infuriating searching for a spot. Especially if your vehicle is a bicycle.
Despite the installation of hundreds of new bike racks around the city over the past few years, New York’s boom in bicycling has meant that it’s increasingly difficult to find a safe place to lock up. It’s illegal to lock to trees, and the fine for doing so is $1,000. The rules on street signs are vague, and your bike could theoretically get removed by the cops. Scaffolding is tempting, but if you lock to the wrong part, you might find the bar unbolted and your bike gone when you return. Lots of property owners don’t want you locking to fences and railings, and you always run the risk of being clipped if you do so.
Now that spring is on the way, the bike-parking crunch is only going to get worse, especially since so many perfectly good, legal racks are taken up by the carcasses of bikes that have long been abandoned. Any regular New York cyclist is familiar with the problem. Sometimes the rusted, bent frame of a long-abandoned two-wheeler will sit for months in a prime space, effectively lockblocking regular commuters and occasional visitors to the neighborhood alike.
There’s a new project that aims to clear the city’s racks of this infuriating debris. Dead Pedal NY is encouraging the city’s riders to use Instagram to take pictures of the offending hunks of junk, caption them with the location, and tag them with #deadpedalny. Dead Pedal will then pass the information along to the Department of Sanitation in an attempt to “help (and inspire) them to clean them up faster.”
The project is the work of an advertising student identifying him or herself only as “Pat,” who writes in an email that Dead Pedal is a way of applying marketing concepts to “do a little good” before getting out of school and entering the working world.
The site has strict guidelines, echoing the city’s, about which bikes qualify for being reported. “That’s the beautiful thing about using Instagram,” writes Pat. “The city has a firm definition of what an abandoned bicycle that can be removed is. It has to be a very abandoned bicycle.”
In order to qualify as “very abandoned,” the bike has to be “crushed or totally broken”; missing “important parts other than seat or wheel”; featuring “messed-up” pedals or handlebars; with bent fork, frames, or rims; or at least 75 percent rusted. “With Instagram, they can actually see that these bikes are totally abandoned,” writes Pat.
Geotagging on Instagram is good to within about 10 yards, says Pat, and the picture provides further confirmation of the offending piece of debris.
Will Dead Pedal NY make a dent in the pile of bike corpses that obstruct the city’s scant bike parking? We can only hope. Because one of these days, warmer weather is finally going to get here. And demand for those parking places is going to go through the roof.