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Question: There’s a bicycle chained to a post in front of my house. It’s been there since October. The wheels and seat disappeared months ago. There’s not much left but the frame. Is it OK for me to remove it?

— Wheeless in Williamsburg

Dear Wheeless,

Do you have a heavy-duty bolt cutter? I say go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? Some guy shows up after the spring thaw and knocks on your door.

Him: Have you seen my bike?

You: The one that was there before Halloween?

Him: Yeah.

You: The one with no seat and wheels?

Him: Yeah!

You: Nope, haven’t seen it.

If you’re disinclined toward confrontation, you can call 311 to report an unusable bicycle chained to city property. The city says a bike is unusable if any three of these faults are evident:

  • The bike appears to be crushed or not usable.
  • The bike is missing its handlebar, pedal or pedals, rear wheel or chain.
  • The handlebars or pedals are damaged, or the existing forks, frames or rims are bent.
  • 50 percent or more of the bike is rusted, along with the chain attaching it to public property.
photo of bike chained to post

This bike appears to qualify as “unusable.” (Source: Steven Piasano via Flickr Creative Commons)

There is a separate place to report any bike, usable or unusable, that’s chained to a city tree.

Be aware, however, that the city won’t do anything about a usable bike chained to a city sign. So you’ll have to make that call on your own. Don’t jump to any conclusions, though. Maybe it’s someone coming and going but you never see them.

If you think the bike has been abandoned, try putting a note on the bike and see if anyone responds in a few days. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, you can invoke New York’s unofficial “left on the sidewalk” rule.

Or just get a bolt cutter. You can rent one from Home Depot and pop that chain. Rest assured, the bike will be gone within an hour.

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

(Featured photo by Steven Paisano via Flickr)