The Active Transportation Alliance has a long history of advocating for the rights of bicyclists, and occasionally they do so via direct action.
A case in point was a recent incident in which an Active Trans helped reconnect a bicyclist with her ride after it was unfairly confiscated by security outside the American Medical Association headquarters. The advocacy group also got the building manager to take down an illegal “No bike parking” sign.
Last week, Susie Copithorne pedaled to work and locked to a city “No [Car] Parking” sign pole on the north side of the building, located at 330 North Wabash. She didn’t notice that the AMA had bolted its own metal sign to the pole, warning that bikes would be removed.
The thing is, it’s completely legal to lock a bike to a sign pole on the public right-of-way. I should know. Back in the early 2000s, when I was managing the Chicago Department of Transportation’s bike parking program, I helped get the following language incorporated into the city’s municipal code:
9-52-070 Parking: No person shall park a bicycle upon a street other than upon the roadway against the curb or upon the sidewalk against a rack, parking meter or sign pole to support the bicycle or against a building or at the curb in such manner as to afford the least obstruction to pedestrian traffic.
Later that day, Active Trans employee Tony Giron happened upon building staff attempting to cut Copithorne’s U-lock, according to education specialist Jason Jenkins. The workers were unable to cut the lock, but they unbolted the sign pole and took the bike, despite the objections of Giron and coworkers who joined him from their nearby office.
The advocacy group left a note for Copithorne with phone numbers, and she was able to track down her cycle, which was stashed in the building’s garage. Active Trans also called AMA security staff and Riverview Realty, the property manager, to educate them about the bike parking ordinance, and notified CDOT. Jenkins wasn’t sure if the city contacted the building as well but, by Sunday, the “No Bike Parking” sign had been removed.
“We periodically get reports of this, maintenance people cutting locks off bikes legally secured to city poles in front of their buildings (not okay) and sometimes off of their private fencing, etc. (which is okay),” Jenkins wrote. “The affixing of the illegal sign is a new wrinkle.”
“Without ATA, I probably would not have found my bike,” Copithorne said. “Even if I had been there to witness the confiscation, I would have naively apologized to the building owners, because I didn’t know my rights. In a city that is relatively new to cycle commuting, it’s nice to know that someone is not only looking out for us, but also interested in educating people about the law.”