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"Is it okay to remove a part or accessory from a seemingly abandoned bike?"

No, but there are exceptions (I'll get into them below).

"If so, what are the factors that come into play?
Length of time the bike has been left out?
The place where it has been left?
Signage indicating a specified period of time a bike can be left locked up?"

If it is locked up at a location where it is relatively easy to find the owner/manager of the property where it is locked up, do that. Contact the property owner/manager and ask their policy on the seemingly abandoned bike. You might also want to check with the municipality where it's located, to see what their definition of abandoned property is, and the procedure with claiming it. If there is signage regarding time a bike can be left locked up, bring it to the attention of the property owner/management, and offer to remove the entire bike.

"If you have removed a part, accessory, or an entire bike, what criteria or personal logic did you use?"

At an apartment I lived at years ago, there was a Trek MTB locked to a security fence in the parking garage. It had been there for years. Management sent around a notice that all bikes (there were multiples throughout the building) locked to the gates needed to be removed by a certain date. After that date, they would be removed and disposed of. The day after that date came, I went to the manager and inquired about the Trek. I offered to attempt to remove it, since no one had claimed it. They gave their blessing. I couldn't get it unlocked. It did have a nice Blackburn rear rack on it, so I removed that. I then let the manager know that I was unable to unlock the bike. I don't know what happened to the bike, but the rack is living on my SS MTB.


Seriously? Clearly that would be theft. If it were a car or house that was seemingly abandoned instead of a bike, would you also consider looting that?

If the abandoned bike bothers you, report it to the city. If you covet the bike or parts, then buy it at auction later if nobody claims it from the city.


I don't think you can 100% assume it has been abandoned. Why would they have locked it up if they were abandoning it? Any chance they came back that first evening and had a flat and have since been trying to fix it? That might explain the front tire off the rim. They don't know what they are doing and are waiting for a friend to help them change the tube? Meanwhile, the back tire has gone flat. And next they come back to find some a-hole (joking!) has stolen their favorite accessory! Or maybe they ended up sick or in the hospital or having to go out of town. It's just hard to know; sure if it stays there someone is going to end up taking it and it may or may not matter, but if the person is just down on their luck for some reason, you don't want to kick them while they're down.


In Sweden, abandoned bikes can be turned in as lost property to the local police administration. If no one has claimed the bike after 90 days it's legally yours. However, cutting a lock to remove a bike from a rack or similar will always be theft.

Now, here's a stupid thing: claiming bikes that are rotting away in public (city-owned) bike racks is virtually impossible. They are considered vehicles, and a vehicle can be towed away if parked wrongly. Parking of bicycles is however not covered by swedish traffic regulations, ie you cannot park a bike wrongly. As only wrongly parked vehicles can be towed away, the city can only remove these bikes under the condition that they are immediately discarded (meaning landfill or metal shred).

Being a member of a local bike kitchen, we investigated this thoroughly a while back, and were very upset by the fact that our city trashes all these bikes. They are out of reach.


Legally, it's theft.
Morally, it is probably Recycling, but Moral is something lawyers don't go by (it's not their Job).


When I was in college, there was a super-nice mountain bike locked up near the campus center that I passed every day for more than a year. The tires went flat & it took on a little rust, but was still in remarkable condition for having been out in the sun & weather for so long. One day I was walking past it & overheard someone nearby talking about it, saying that it was his. Apparently he had locked it up (chain & heavy-duty Kryptonite U-lock) with the shackle on the U-lock backwards & it had jammed; he called Kryptonite & they said the only way to remove it was likely with a cutting torch. The next day I came back & took a closer look, and realized that all that time the chain was through the front wheel & around the stem behind the bars, but wasn't actually securing the frame. I came back with the appropriate allen wrench, pulled the stem off to slip the chain over the headset (wouldn't fit around the bars), & took off the front wheel, freeing (the majority of) the bike from its captivity. I figured out the name of the owner, sent him an email, and dropped it off at his dorm. He barely thanked me. Part of me still wishes that I had kept it (he had clearly abandoned it, & hadn't taken the time to figure out that only the front wheel was really locked, & had locked it badly in the first place), but I never would have felt right about that. Everyone, please take care of your bicycles, and lock them carefully & securely. It makes me sad to see people abusing their bikes through ignorance and/or disregard.


A friend and I kept an eye on a seemingly abandoned bike outside of one of our favorite watering holes for months one summer, conspiring on breaking the lock and "adopting" it. After several weeks, the tires went flat and the chain completely rusted. It probably sat, locked to a public bike rack, for at least 3-4 months. Until one day it just disappeared. A couple weeks later, it reappeared on the same rack, now with a brand new chain and cable housing. Needless to say, we were glad we didn't "adopt" it, because it definitely would've been theft and we would have screwed someone out of their bike.

captain obvious

first come first serve, take everything you can get!

The Tech Curmudgeon

I would guess the bike was stolen and left by the thief, using a lock that was probably stolen with it. Given that the owner likely had his/her bike stolen, I don't think you should add insult to injury by stripping the bike.


I think it's absolutely fine. If the bike is definitely abandoned then you're saving it from eventually being cut off and disposed of. IMO it's no different to pulling a discarded bike out of a skip.
I would make sure that you definitely know it is abandoned though - if it's been there for a really long time, they're probably not coming back for it.


At my college, from time to time they'd clean out the storage areas in the dorm basements and sell the abandoned stuff. Junior year I bought a '70s Schwinn Suburban, which in 1994 was definitely the uncoolest bike you could have. I liked the ride, though. Anyway, believing that nobody else would want it, I bought the cheapest, flimsiest chain lock at the hardware store. Bad move. Stolen in less than a month.

After that experience, I felt justified in cutting the similarly flimsy chain lock on a rotting Peugeot that hadn't moved from its spot on one of the dorm porches in the 2 1/2 years I'd been at school. I'm pretty sure it was indeed abandoned, so I wasn't stealing from anybody per se, but it still seems like one of the wrongest things I've ever done. Mea culpa.


In general, if you take something that isn't yours, then it's quite clearly theft. However, if you can determine that the owner can't be located, then morally it make sense to make use of something that has been abandoned. Usually, the process to determine that the items have really been abandoned takes quite a while (e.g. leaving contact information and/or contacting the premises owner) so if the item is valuable to you then you might be prepared to do the necessary in order to get it.

So, you should ask if you're prepared to shortcut the ownership question by stealing the item or wait it out and determine that it is abandoned and thus has no current owner.


Have you seen the Miyazaki move called 'Spirited Away'?

No spoilers, but there's a part near the beginning which sets up the whole rest of the movie that I instantly thought of when you asked your question.


Years ago living in LA there was a bike in my apartment complex locked to the fence that had been sitting for yearrrrrs. Flat rotten tires, rusty chain, etc. I asked tenants whod lived there years and they said it was abandoned. So one day I borrowed some bolt cutters from one of my jobs at the gym (used to cut open lockers of people whod lost keys or forgot combo doh!) Came home cut the bike out and transferred the rims over. I wanted the seat too but it didnt fit hah. So I think if you know its abandoned go for it, better someone use it before it returns to the earth.

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