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City laws on locking a bike to a tree?

This topic contains 34 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  Vannevar 5 mos, 3 weeks.

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RRXJQU

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May 7 2014 at 10:02pm #

I parked my bike outside my friends house in Lawrenceville to watch the Pen’s game. This is the first time I’ve ever locked my bike to that tree, I normally just take it inside. Come out to find a City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police business card taped to my bike, threatening to cut my lock and steal my bike as “abandoned property” if i ever park it there again.

Are there any laws or ordinances that permit this type of theft?


salty

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May 7 2014 at 10:55pm #

I don’t know about any laws but it’s bad for the tree so better to lock up elsewhere regardless.


Steven

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May 8 2014 at 2:07am #

Maybe it wasn’t the fact that it was locked to a tree but some other condition that made the police officer think (rightly or wrongly) that parking a bike there was a violation. It might be interesting to call the number on the card and ask what the officer thought you did wrong. Maybe he thought you were blocking a fire hydrant, a driveway, or one door of the officer’s personal car. :-)

But I agree with Salty. Supposedly locks hurt the bark and let insects get in and kill the tree.


Benzo

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May 8 2014 at 9:05am #

Legal or not, don’t lock to street trees.

But yeah, lawrenceville needs more good places to lock up.


Marko82

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May 8 2014 at 9:17am #

I agree with trying to NOT lock to a tree. But the card from the LEO sounds a little fishy to me. What law is being broken? Maybe he lives near there and doesnt want bikes locked up near his house or something, but to use his official card in this way seems inappropriate.


Marko82

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May 8 2014 at 9:27am #

Llawrenceville is council district 7 which is represented by Councilwoman Deb Gross http://pittsburghpa.gov/district7/contact

You can ask her what the policy/law is regarding bike parking in that area without mentioning the business card. After you get her response you can then inquirer about the officer’s note if there is disagreement with policy.


RRXJQU

Private Message

May 8 2014 at 9:29am #

I was using a U-lock that was large enough to not damage the tree. I understand how leaving it there long term could cause damage, but 3 hours didn’t even leave a mark.

I parked it parallel to the street so it wasn’t blocking anything. I try to be as conscientious as possible in picking where to lock my bike.

I would call the number, but I feel like it wouldn’t accomplish anything seeing as the note was very combative. Here is a link to the card left: http://imgur.com/brFouQo

Does anyone know the specific law that was broken? I’ve tried to search Google but I haven’t been able to find anything specific to bikes.


RRXJQU

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May 8 2014 at 9:29am #

Thanks Marko, I’ll send an email now.


rgrasmus

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May 8 2014 at 9:42am #

For bike parking on sidewalks, PGH Muni code § 541.01(a)(2) refers to PA Vehicle code which states the following:
Ҥ 3509. Parking.
(a) Sidewalks.–
(1) A person may park a pedalcycle on a sidewalk unless prohibited or restricted by an official traffic-control device.
(2) A pedalcycle parked on a sidewalk shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrian or other traffic.”


rgrasmus

Private Message

May 8 2014 at 9:50am #

Interesting, he could be using PGH Muni Code §485.01 as justification:

Ҥ 485.01 DAMAGE; COLLECTION OF REPAIR EXPENSES.

No person shall injure any tree or shrub planted in any public place. In the event of accidental damage to or destruction of any tree or shrub a report shall be made within forty-eight (48) hours to the Department of Public Works. Repair or replanting necessitated by the damage or destruction may be done by the Department and the expense of the repairs or replanting shall be collected from the persons responsible for the damage.”


jonawebb

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May 8 2014 at 9:52am #

I think abandoned property is more of a common law issue. Probably it’s enough for the cop to claim he found your bike abandoned. And then you’d be able to get it back, by going to the police station and showing that it belonged to you (you do have a receipt, right?) The point of which is, it’s a royal pain for you. And you could charge he was harassing you but I don’t think you would get very far with that.
So: lock your bike someplace else; maybe contact your councilperson to request more bike racks, which would be good for everybody.


RRXJQU

Private Message

May 8 2014 at 9:56am #

Thanks rgrasmus!

The second code you listed seems like it would only apply if there was damage. I guess he could try and argue that I damaged it, but there wasn’t any.


Marko82

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May 8 2014 at 10:35am #

I think there is the possibility of a bigger picture issue here. Is this cop anti-bike? Is he attempting to abuse his position? Why did he single out this particular bike? Why did he use a business card instead of his ticket pad (which can be used for warnings & can be seen by superiors)? And why the confrontational tone?

At the very least this is not a very professional way to communicate.


rice rocket

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May 8 2014 at 12:54pm #

Why don’t you call the number on the card and ask? He/She left it there for a reason.

At the very least this is not a very professional way to communicate.

What’s the alternative? Wait around till the owner comes back?


Mick

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May 8 2014 at 1:20pm #

Is it possible that the tree is in a place where many people would lock to it if someone did not actively and consistently discourage that?

One would have to be careful indeed to get a bike locked to and unlocked from a tree and do no damage at all. Most places the damage form one locking would be insignificant, but if the tree was close to Butler street, multiply that damage by a few dozen a month.

There might not be enough places to lock a bike in Larryville, but there are also not enough trees.

I’m not sure why you wouldn’t call the number. Nothing in the communication made me think “theft” and the note was only vaguely “combative.”


WillB

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May 8 2014 at 1:27pm #

“Most places the damage form one locking would be insignificant, but if the tree was close to Butler street, multiply that damage by a few dozen a month.”

Agreed. Like many things, it’s not the single instance, but the general behavior that is harmful. Plus, even if you lock with the greatest care, your bike could easily get knocked over or shift and damage the young tree. Please don’t lock your bike to trees.


Marko82

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May 8 2014 at 3:15pm #

@rr, how about a note that says “please dont lock your bike to trees.” Nice. Simple. Gets the message across.

If you havent experienced an A-hole cop in this city yet you are very lucky. And yes I may be jumping to conclusions, but it is based on many accumulated encounters over the years.


rice rocket

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May 8 2014 at 10:19pm #

I’ll reserve final judgment after seeing the original note but my suspicion is it isn’t as passive aggressive if you read it without the preconceived notion that all cops are dicks.

And I’ve met plenty city cops who are fine people, I’ve actually never had a “bad encounter”. I’m not one to create a spat over minor inconveniences, where I’m sure some people would call their local ACLU rep over the same confrontation. Not saying bad cops don’t exist but it’s easy to confuse assertiveness with dickishness. If you had to deal with what they do on a daily basis, erring towards assertive probably gets things done quicker than saying “will you please not break the law”.

Just my opinion though.


Mikhail

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May 9 2014 at 7:08am #

I’ll reserve final judgment after seeing the original note

Picture of original note has been taken and given in the message

http://bikepgh.org/mb/topic/city-laws-on-locking-a-bike-to-a-tree/#post-295153


Mikhail

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May 9 2014 at 7:15am #

I was using a U-lock that was large enough to not damage the tree.

There is always a damage to bark. It’s like our skin — rub it once and it looks like nothing happened, rub it 1,000 times and skin breaks. Trees grow in rings — we now that. And this thin layer is just between bark and “wood” intself. If you drill a whole in the middle of tree then tree easily survives. If you cut brak around the tree just 3/8″ it would die. All liquids are carried by this “between bark and wood” layer.


LizziMac

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May 9 2014 at 8:46am #

I may be a treehugger, but this cop may be also. Interpretation of this note varies with perception.

“I’m cutting your chain and taking your bike as abandoned property” may seem an overreaction when the officer could’ve said, “Please don’t lock your bike to trees,” but I have the exact same response when I see a bike locked to a tree; I wouldn’t put it past myself to put a snarky note on a bike telling the owner to park their bike with respect to the city, neighborhood, and nature. Now whether I’d put my contact information on that note is another story, which leads me to…

I would forgive this officer’s tone due to the fact they left their name/zone and wrote on the front of the card “Call me if you have questions,” which leads me to believe that the officer is sincere in not wanting you to lock to trees (probably for the health of the tree and trees’ subsequent benefits to the neighborhood) and genuinely wants you to inquire if you have questions.

I’d call, get their perspective, be respectful, and then advocate for increased bicycle parking in Lawrenceville.


Pierce

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May 9 2014 at 11:44am #

Ugh, once again, we could use some fucking perspective officer. (And tree huggers?)

Assaulting your wife, assaulting a kid walking home to his grandmothers house, shooting into a car with an innocent passenger and innocent pedestrians on the street, A’OKAY! Parking a bike onto a tree, SEIZE THE PROPERTY!

It’s a fucking tree and a fucking bike. The dude’s bike isn’t made of an orbital sander, it’s not going to kill the tree, or I guess, even scratch it up. You know animals actually scratch trees in the forest? (and climb them too) Like bears and shit with huge claws? Are they killing trees?

Second of all, you know what I’m assuming is killing a shit load more trees. Climate change. How about forest fires, droughts, insect plagues? Hurricanes? Snow storms. All those extreme weather events, which occur with greater frequency due to climate change.

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/forests.html3

How about officer Greenpeace go and put notes on everybody driving around Lawrenceville that COULD be riding a bike. Or how about he put notes on everybody eating meat, which has a much greater climate impact than parking a bike around a tree. Or how about people running their air conditioning that aren’t at risk of heat stroke? Or how about everybody who has coal powered electricity when they can have green powdered electricity? Or how about people using clothes dryers? Etc, etc, etc, etc

But no. Let’s not focus on what actually makes a damn difference and is going to kill exponentially more trees, let’s focus on a dude locking a bike to a tree.


Mikhail

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May 9 2014 at 12:13pm #

Are they killing trees?

Yes, they do. As well as other animals (deer, moose, rabbits — do it a lot when there is problems with other food).


StuInMcCandless

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May 9 2014 at 12:26pm #

A bit over the top, there, @pierce, but I see your point. There are a whole lot of other issues that should be the concern of police, before bothering cyclists about where to lock a bike.

Yet the others also do have a point. Don’t lock to a tree if there’s something else better to lock to. If there isn’t, there should be, and making noise in the right places would help attain that. If a call to this cop helps make that happen, then please make that call.

Stopgap suggestion: If you do have no other choice but to lock to a tree, do go to some trouble to wrap a piece of cloth or a plastic bag around the tree so the lock and/or bike don’t chew it up at that point.


RRXJQU

Private Message

May 9 2014 at 12:28pm #

Thanks Pierce, I probably laughed too much while reading your response.

I stopped responding to the thread after I saw it turned into a mini Arbor Day. I guess there are some really inconsiderate people out there, but from some of the responses it sounds like people think I took an axe to the thing.


Pierce

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May 9 2014 at 12:30pm #

Pardon my profanity, I’m not actually that adamant about it, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me. I actually am pretty adamant about the impending irreversible climate change and how people are still focusing on petty crap while ignoring actual significant contributors of greenhouse gases.

I also can’t find any reputable sources that says that merely parking a bike on a tree damages the tree. Mostly just bike people or environmentalists crying murder. Now I can see where people forget their bikes or abandon them and the lock gets eaten by the tree, which does cause issues, but that isn’t the case here.

I mean heck, ever rest your toptube on your thigh while waiting at a light? Does the bike kill your thigh? I agree with Stu to look up to something else if possible, (if at the very least, because other places people will cut a tree for a bike) but it’s not something I’d be threatening to seize citizen’s property over


jonawebb

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May 9 2014 at 12:37pm #

http://www.thechainlink.org/forum/topics/locking-bikes-to-trees

http://blog.bicyclecoalition.org/2010/03/businesses-cutting-bikes-from-their.html

http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/the_fixer/2013/11/21/bikes_rub_newly_planted_trees_the_wrong_way_on_yonge_st_the_fixer.html

http://occupytreecare.wordpress.com/

BTW, this one is Lawrenceville-specific:

http://www.lunited.org/be-kind-to-lawrenceville-trees/

Etc.
BTW this is the most bike friendly forum you will ever find. If a bunch of people here are telling you not to do something with your bike, don’t do it.
Also, think globally, act locally.


Pierce

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May 9 2014 at 12:54pm #

Another added caveat. Smaller, newer, weaker trees can be damaged. One of the provided links says trees smaller than 2″ are “especially” vulnerable.


Benzo

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May 9 2014 at 2:01pm #

But no. Let’s not focus on what actually makes a damn difference and is going to kill exponentially more trees, let’s focus on a dude locking a bike to a tree.

Unfortunately, Juristdiction issues prevent officer Malloy from enforcing laws against illegal destruction of rainforests or stopping excessive emissions.

Will the OP lock a bike to a tree again? Seems unlikely.

Was the note slightly rude? maybe.

Should anything be done about it? I don’t give a damn.

Has the big stink made about this little notecard informative to others, letting them know that they shouldn’t really lock bikes to trees? Yeah, probably.


Benzo

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May 9 2014 at 2:05pm #

Another added caveat. Smaller, newer, weaker trees can be damaged. One of the provided links says trees smaller than 2? are “especially” vulnerable.

I can’t really get a u-lock around trees bigger than 2″ very easily, and locking with a cable lock is stupid and a good way to get your bike stolen, so it’s probably best to find something else to lock to.


Pierce

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May 9 2014 at 2:31pm #

I’d also like to know how many cars have been impounded after running over/into trees. That’s another thing that I’m sure kills a lot more trees. (Or at the very least, would cause more bark damage.)


RRXJQU

Private Message

May 9 2014 at 2:39pm #

I’ll be honest, I grew up on a farm, I’m not worried if I get a little grease on a tree or give it the slightest nic. It’ll be just fine and go on to live a happy tree life. In fact, I went home last weekend and cut down 4 apple trees for my parents, with a chainsaw, not a u-lock.

I was just looking to see if this cop was threatening to do something illegal. Thanks to everyone who answered my question.


edmonds59

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May 9 2014 at 4:28pm #

“I was just looking to see if this cop was threatening to do something illegal.”
Some percentage of cops believe that if they do it, that makes it legal.
Some percentage of judges agree with those cops.
100% of politicians are 100% unwilling to challenge either of those assumptions.


Pierce

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May 10 2014 at 3:09pm #

I just had an idea… I’d mail the dude (to the zone building) a tree ring of a similar sized tree with the business card included and be like “the tree had an accident”


Vannevar

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May 10 2014 at 5:58pm #

As a person who finds humor in misinformation, I wonder if Officer Jones found it amusing to sign this other officer’s name to an inflammatory note. Now everybody’s PO’d at the PO who doesn’t even know about it. This might be a well-played prank.

I suggest this because there’s dissonance in the “im gonna cut your chain” and “here’s my number so call me” themes. I smell a red herring. It would actually be kind of a funny move.

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