Bicycle Stolen from Notorious ‘Private Rack’

IMG_0139Stephen Rex Brown Ten months after it first appeared, the “private” bike rack is still in place.

The city’s administrative code doesn’t allow it, but that hasn’t stopped someone from continuing to claim that the bike rack on East Fourth Street between Avenues A and B is private.

The bike stolen from the 'private' rack The stolen bike.

Now, one cyclist who dared to goad the person leaving menacing messages taped to bikes on the rack paid the ultimate price — his ride was stolen.

The cyclist, Kyle, who asked to be identified by only his first name for fear of a confrontation with the person writing the nasty notes, lives in a building facing the rack. He said he’d been flouting the “owner” of the rack’s demands for months.

In fact, the bicycle featured in The Local’s first story on the rack belonged to Kyle’s girlfriend. A note left on it in October read, “This is a private rack. Remove your bike or it will be done for you!!”

“We’ve been ignoring them. I’m not going to listen to that because it’s not legal,” Kyle said. “It’s crazy that this person thinks he can do that.”

It all came to a head last week.

The private rack All that was left of Kyle’s bike at the “private” rack on Saturday.

On Thursday, Kyle discovered that someone had locked his bike to the rack with a chain. Outraged, he and his girlfriend left a note in response that read, “Private bike. Please remove lock.” They also taped print-outs of last year’s coverage of the “private” rack, which confirmed that the rack was not installed by the Department of Transportation. Nevertheless, one cannot claim a rack for one’s own on a public sidewalk.

By late Friday his bike, worth around $200, was still locked to the rack. So Kyle decided to take matters into his own hands. With the help of a friend he cut the chain and then dared to leave his bike parked there with his own u-lock.

The chain snapped by Kyle The chain Kyle said someone else used to lock his bike to the “private” rack.

“What am I going to do? I’m not going to run away, I live here,” he said of the decision to leave his bike locked to the rack. “It’s out of principle.”

But Kyle, 23, paid a price for his ideals. The next day his bike was gone, and all that remained was his clipped u-lock. After the ordeal he began searching online and came across last year’s articles, leading him to contact The Local.

His girlfriend tried to report the bike stolen at the Ninth Precinct, but was discouraged from doing so. “She was made to feel she instigated the bike theft,” Kyle said.

Regardless of whether he was asking for it, Kyle isn’t the only one on the receiving end of the rack owner’s ire.

The clipped U-lock Kyle’s clipped u-lock.

“Other people have gotten their bikes maliciously destroyed there,” said Gary Mendez, who works at Landmark Bicycles a block away from the rack. “Slashed tires, damaged rims. Nobody seems to know who is doing it.”

Kyle said he knows one other person in his building who has received a written warning for parking a bike at the rack. And he’s noticed other clipped locks left at the rack.

Mr. Mendez observed that the notes seem to come in waves. A couple people will come in and complain about it one week, then nothing. A few weeks later the issue will flare up again.

“People come in and say, ‘Damn, I got this rim-pinch!’ I ask where and then I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s that notorious area — the private rack,” he said.