- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

Abandoned and vandalized bicycles are lining streets and walkways in the District, a problem community activists say has become an eyesore that city officials aren’t effectively addressing.

Nearly a dozen old bicycles are currently locked to poles, meters and trees in Northwest, said Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.

Mr. Lynch is calling for a more collaborative effort among city agencies to stem the problem.

“We can do a much better job at making the public areas both safe and enjoyable for all,” he said. “Agencies should better coordinate to protect the bikes from getting stripped in the first place and preventing bicycle thefts.”

The city disposes of about five to 10 unclaimed bicycles a week, depending upon the time of year, said Jim Sebastian, the bicycle program manager for the D.C. Department of Transportation.

Mr. Sebastian said the issue isn’t prevalent and the agency partners with the city’s public works department and police to deal with the situation.

“We do, however, consider it a problem and take it seriously,” he said. “We want to keep the city clean and work in coordination to remove the bikes as expeditiously as possible once they’re reported.”

But Mr. Lynch contends the city has dragged its feet regarding the bicycles. He submitted to the transportation department a list of abandoned bicycles, some of which he said have been lying on the sidewalks for years.

“Bikes get abandoned just like cars,” he said. “On college campuses, around apartment buildings, near Dupont Circle, along Wisconsin Avenue. … The ones we reported are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Officials have worked hard to make the District bicycle-friendly. Bicycle traffic in the District’s downtown area more than doubled between 1986 and 2002, according to the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

In February, the transportation department announced the addition of eight miles of bicycle lanes to the city’s bicycle map and made the background of the new map lighter to accentuate the bike lanes, existing trails and future trails.

Currently, the District sports 17 miles of bike lanes, 50 miles of bike paths and 64 miles of bicycle routes.

But residents apparently have more bicycles than they can handle.

In the 1200 block of N Street Northwest, a bicycle stripped to its frame sits in front of an apartment building. Near Dupont Circle, another bicycle frame is locked to a parking meter outside the Woman’s National Democratic Club on New Hampshire Avenue.

“We want to encourage people to have bicycles,” Mr. Lynch said. “But it’s a transient city. People move in and out and, for whatever reason, leave behind the bicycles. Or, someone’s abandoned a secondhand bike they don’t have use for anymore.”

“Others have been stolen and stripped — basically down to ‘bike carcasses,’ ” he said.

By law, the city must first tag reported bicycles with warnings informing owners they have 10 days to move the bicycles.

Though Mr. Sebastian isn’t certain who is abandoning the bicycles, he said he is mystified why owners would do so, especially after securing their property.

“I’m curious as to who abandons them, and this is something I’ve been doing for more than 10 years,” Mr. Sebastian said. “If you don’t want it anymore, all you have to do is leave it unlocked, so we don’t have to use a hacksaw to get the lock off.”

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