Finally, Philly Is Doing an Abandoned Bike Sweep

The cleanup may or may not have to do with — you guessed it — the pope's visit.

Is there anything more depressing than an abandoned bicycle? OK, there’s plenty of stuff, but you have to admit, there is something particularly sad about a rusty bike, stripped of nearly everything save a frame, clinging onto a street sign for dear life.

If you agree, there’s good news: Philadelphia’s streets department is removing abandoned bicycles on August 12th and 13th. 

“Our priority would be starting from Center City and moving out,” said Denise Goren, director of policy and planning at the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. “We can’t get every abandoned bike in the city.”

So why is the city clearing the streets of blighted bikes now? Is it perhaps because a special someone named Pope Francis is visiting? It sure seems that way. The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities published a blog post about the sweep that referenced “priority zones for the Papal visit.”

Goren, however, insisted that there are no papal priority zones, and that the city is simply doing business as usual.

“Our blogger misspoke,” said Goren. “It’s our normal abandoned bike sweep. We do them twice a year, in the summer and winter. We’ve been doing it for five years.”

Ooookay then. Goren also said, though, “We’re trying to clean up the city because company’s coming.”

It seems like the city is doing that thing where you deep-clean your house because guests are coming over, and when they remark on how sparkling clean everything looks before you sit down for dinner, you just say, “Thanks! It’s always like this. I’m such a neat freak!” … but y’all both know that ain’t true.

Anyway, if there’s an abandoned bike that’s bugging you in Philly, you can report it to 3-1-1. The city will place a yellow tag on it, and if the owner doesn’t remove it after 11 days, officials are authorized to discard it. That means you still have time to report an abandoned bike before the streets department conducts its sweep (and all seized bikes will be given to local charities, btw).

The definition of an abandoned bike, per city law, is one that has two or more of the following problems: a “missing wheel and tire; significantly bent or corroded wheel; missing tire without missing wheel; significantly corroded and flat tire; missing seat; missing handlebars; missing pedals; missing, broken or inoperable chain; or broken or significantly bent frame.”

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