Trash Collectors Spotted Throwing Bikes Directly into Garbage Truck

The instant trashing of bicycles may have gone against city code.

Tires and bike frames line the sides of the Cesar Chavez Bike Bridge near Potrero Hill. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Unclaimed or stolen bikes have been caught up in a legislative back and forth for years, but what one Reddit user saw seemed to throw all of that out the window.

The Reddit poster said they saw city workers on Tuesday take bikes from a “chop shop encampment” behind the Burger King and Bevmo on Bayshore Boulevard and dumping them directly into a garbage truck. Bikes were not visible in a video uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday, but the sound of crunching could be heard as six workers in safety vests lifted other items on the sidewalk to dump.

“This made me so mad when I saw this yesterday,” the user wrote. “One, they are throwing away someone’s stolen bike that they probably wished they could get back, and two if they aren’t going to make an effort to get it back to the original owner, at least donate it to a local bike co-op like the Bike Kitchen.”

Department of Public Works could not be reached in time to confirm if it was, indeed, the work of its employees or contractors. But controversial legislation, which critics called another way to criminalize the city’s homeless population, passed in October 2017 put the department in charge of enforcing a ban on bicycle chop shops on sidewalks.

DPW must first issue a notice if violation if there is someone with five or more bicycles; a bike with the gear cables or brake cables cut; three or more bicycles with missing handlebars, wheels, forks, pedals, cranks, seats, or chains; or five or more bike parts. The department may confiscate items for 30 days, allowing the person or a third party with evidence they are the lawful owner to reclaim them.

After 60 days in DPW custody, the material is considered abandoned and could be thrown out or destroyed. What another Reddit user noted while citing the legislation is that the city has no obligation to find the rightful owner — which conflicts with another piece of legislation.

Theoretically, the bikes should have been donated at the very least as the Reddit user suggested. A 2014 ordinance sponsored by then-Supervisor John Avalos requires police to hand unclaimed bicycles valued at less than $500 to the Human Services Agency to use in a program or activity that aims to lower juvenile delinquency.

“It looks like they’re just being kind of lazy about what to do with that type of resource,” Avalos tells SF Weekly after being sent the video. “There are a lot of communities that benefit greatly by learning [about] and repairing bikes.”

Avalos said the city should respond with a hearing, not just about bikes but about how to deal with the contents of encampment cleared by its workers. He pointed out that some of the property could very well belong to people in the encampment but that there needs to be a real program to help people recover their bicycles.

We’ll update the article as we receive more information. 

UPDATE: A DPW spokesperson on Wednesday evening declined to provide information on potential work done by the department in Bayshore on Tuesday.

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