Portland is gearing up to clamp down on abandoned bikes.

The City Council voted unanimously last week to make it easier for city staff to seize abandoned bicycles and donate them to a local nonprofit that recycles and refurbishes old bikes and resells them at affordable prices.

The changes made to the current ordinance are intended to address a lack of space on bike racks, especially on Peaks Island.

“I brought this forward because the people on Peaks Island were so frustrated with their bike rack out there, which is currently covered in bikes,” City Councilor Belinda Ray said. “On most city racks these (bikes are) just sitting there for storage, abandoned forever and unable to be moved, which this allows us to do.”

Portland adopted an ordinance to address the issue in 2015. It allows staff to tag abandoned bicycles that have been left for more than 30 days. If the owner doesn’t move the bike within 72 hours, the city can confiscate it.

In addition to not being moved for a month, however, a bike must also meet at least two other requirements: no tires or wheels; warped handlebars, seat or wheels; inoperable because of a missing, rusted or broken chain; or a visible layer of dust on the seat or handlebars.

But Ray said many of the bikes don’t end up meeting the definition.

The changes passed by the council Wednesday will allow the city to remove any bike – regardless of its condition – if it has not been moved from a public right of way for 30 days. Bikes that do meet at least two of the other requirements for disrepair or abandonment can be removed from a public right of way after 14 days.

The proposal was endorsed by both the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and the Peaks Island Safety Committee.

Pleasant Avenue resident Eleanor Morse said in an email to a Peaks Island councilor that her bike is her primary mode of transportation in the spring, summer and fall. But it’s often difficult to find a place to lock up her bike at the ferry terminal, because of the bikes that seem to have been there for months.

“This is a small hassle in a world full of major problems, but it would be great to solve one small problem,” Morse said.

A city spokeswoman said that the Public Works Department, which is tasked with enforcing the ordinance, impounds roughly 25-30 bikes on the mainland a year. Only nine have been impounded on Peaks Island since 2015, including two last year. “Vandalism is low so they don’t typically meet the ordinance criteria,” City Hall Communications Director Jessica Grondin said about the relatively few bikes seized on the island.

The bikes collected by the city will be donated to Gear Hub, a nonprofit in East Bayside that fixes up donated outdoor gear and offers them for resale at affordable prices. Its parent organization is Camp Ketcha, a nonprofit youth outdoor organization.

Ainsley Judge, the director of the Gear Hub and the Bike School, said Thursday they have been receiving bikes from the city for the last few years. She estimated that 25 of the 1,000 bikes donated last year were from the city.

Judge said the bikes from the city are usually in such poor condition that they are stripped for parts and then recycled. The average price for a refurbished adult bike is around $200, she said, while kids’ bikes are about $25 and some other adult bikes can be found for $50.

“We’re happy to work with the city on it and recycle these bikes and saving what we can save,” Judge said.


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