Having a bike disappear seems to be an unwanted rite of passage when you’re a Toronto cyclist but the last people you expect to be responsible for it are City of Toronto officials.
But that’s exactly what happened over the Thanksgiving long weekend in The Junction.
Without notice to the public, city crews removed a number of circular bike racks in the popular neighbourhood – complete with the bicycles attached.
Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah works at the Luna Cafe on Dundas Street West, near Keele, and said her bike was one of dozens thrown into the back of a truck on Friday afternoon.
“I was inside the kitchen and my front of house manager ran into the back and said ‘Khadijah someone’s trying to take your bike,'” she explained.
“I came out and these men in orange vests were cutting the bike rack — the ones with the rings on them — and throwing them into the back of a truck with the bikes still attached to them.”
When she confronted the workers about what was going on, the workers told her that they were replacing the racks.
Roberts-Abdullah was allowed to unlock her bike and bring it down off the truck but when she asked what would have happened if she’d not been around when they removed the bikes, she was told she would have had to call 311.
“I asked them ‘how would I have known to do that?’ and he just kind of shrugged that off,” she said.
The City of Toronto told CityNews the contractor removed only one bike rack because it was damaged and needed to be repaired. They also said only one bike was attached at the time it was removed.
A spokesperson also said the rack had been marked with orange spray paint which indicates removal, but said there was no notice posted about the bike rack’s removal.
The City added removing a bike that is in use is fairly rare and most of the bikes they do remove are abandoned bikes that are clearly damaged.
Roberts-Abdullah said that in the six years she’s been a cyclist in Toronto, she’s often seen plastic bags or signs on bike racks notifying the public that the rack would be replaced or was not to be used. But in this instance, she said no notice was given at all.
When she spoke with city officials she was told that the lack of notification to the public about the bike rack removal was “an oversight on (the city’s) part.”
Roberts-Abdullah said it took about three hours for crews to rip out and replace the racks with similar racks – leaving her to wonder how many people would just assume their bike had been stolen.
“I immediately put a post on Twitter and Facebook, knowing that was probably the most effective way to let people know, because I was genuinely concerned about other people not knowing that this was happening — people in the neighbourhood whose bikes could have potentially been taken,” she explained.
“I’ve had my bike stolen and I know what it feels like to walk out with your keys in hand ready to unlock your bike and not see it there and feel kind of dumbfounded about what to do next or what happened to your bike at all … you don’t expect that it’s going to the be city that’s the one that removed your bike without notifying you.”
The City said they are working on improving awareness of bike removal and are encouraging owners who believe their bike is missing due to this type of work to contact 311. If a bike is removed, it is kept for two months.
They also are encouraging cyclists not to park their bikes at racks that look damaged or are marked with orange spray paint.