On March 20, the University of Michigan will begin removing bicycles that have been abandoned at bike racks across campus.

In an e-mail interview, University Landscape Architect Kenn Rapp wrote that beginning in fall of 2015, representatives from the UM Grounds Department, UM Parking and Transportation, UM Police Department and the University Planner Office began developing a new plan to address the growing issue of bicycle abandonment on campus. 

“We’ve been noticing an increase in the number of complaints about abandoned bikes taking up space on the racks,” Rapp wrote. “The UM Grounds Department is out on campus every day and the number of abandoned bikes that are on the racks has become more noticeable in recent years.”

Currently, it is estimated that abandoned bikes take up approximately 20 percent of bike rack space on campus, according to Rapp.

“We estimate that there could be as many as 1,500 to 2,000 abandoned bikes on campus,” Rapp wrote.

For cyclists such as Engineering senior Cat Culkin, the lack of bike parking can be a nuisance. Culkin said while at areas, like the Union, it can be difficult to find bicycle parking because of its central location, she has seen abandoned bikes. Culkin said she knows of one bike at the EECs which she estimates has been parked for three years in the same spot. 

“I don’t want anyone to have their bike taken or something if it wasn’t abandoned,” Culkin said, “so I totally get why people are worried. But, yeah, it would be nice to have more bike parking open.”

To resolve the issue of bike abandonment on campus, all bikes assumed to be abandoned will be tagged, photographed and a description will be logged. Bikes suspected to be abandoned, based on signs such as bent rims, deteriorated tires, rusted breaks or chain, will be tagged for future removal.

Beginning on May 15, tagged bikes will be collected and taken to a storage area where they will be kept for a 30 day period beginning with the first day of fall classes. The grounds department will be cutting locks to remove bikes, and students who have locks damaged will not be given compensation.

The 30 day period is provided for students who might want to collect bikes that they left behind. When this period ends, the bikes in holding will be removed.

Usable bikes left behind will be taken to the University’s Property Disposition or given to a program to be reused; the rest will be recycled for parts.

In addition to the problem of taking up space, abandoned bikes add difficulty to the work of grounds crews, who are responsible for maintaining campus space, Rapp wrote.

“The abandoned bikes not only look bad but they can make the maintenance of the area more difficult,” Rapp wrote.

Staff involved in the project said they encourage students to remove their bikes from campus when they leave for the summer or graduate.

“If they are unable to take their bike with them we would encourage them to find an alternative place to store the bike than on a campus bike rack. We want to make sure that the maximum number of racks are available for active bicyclists,” Rapp wrote.


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