Active Trans Gets Building to Take Down Illegal “No Bike Parking” Sign

AMA Security stealing a person's bike
AMA building staff removing Copithorne’s bike from the pole. Photo: Active Trans.

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 illegal “No Bike Parking” sign. Photo: Active Trans

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.”

  • Alex


    When you lease an apartment, do you have to manage the maintenance? No, your property managers does that. It’s part of the incentive to lease instead of buy.

    The AMA does not own the building, it leases about 10 floors in a 47 floor building. There is also a hotel, a restaurant, and numerous other businesses on the other floors. No one business is responsible for that sign or the bike issue – it is the property management company’s responsibility and doing.

  • Good question — seems like a gray area. Let me look into it.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    When you lease an apartment does your name go on the front of the building? No. Why is it so hard for you to process that the use of a name implies responsibility? That’s why we sign contracts, with our name.

    Everybody here gets that the board of the American Medical Association did not sit around and say “Bikes suck”, that Riverview Realty or whoever apparently made the decision. Nonetheless, you can go on all day about who actually manages the property, but when a sign goes up that says “Bikes will be removed by AMA plazasecurity” it is only natural that people are going to hold the AMA responsible. Because their name is on the sign. That is how public perception works. If the sign says “Joe’s Restaurant” the public does not think “well yeah, but he’s probably just leasing the space and if something shitty happens to me there at the hands of people calling themselves “Joe’s Restaurant Security” I shouldn’t be mad at Joe. That’s not how it works.

    Likewise the AMA has a vested interest in stepping up and saying “This action does not reflect our values and was not authorized by us” etc. etc.

    To instead say “Uh, oh, yeah, well that’s our name, but we’re not responsible” would sound like BS buck passing. If the AMA doesn’t want to be perceived as being responsible then they should have the sign taken down. If they’re unable to dictate that policy to the security staff, because the security staff don’t work for them, then the security should not be referred to as “AMA plaza security”, or the plaza shouldn’t be named AMA plaza.

  • Jon C. McGahan

    Actually, “naming rights” is just that. You pay money, your name goes on the building. That’s it. No responsibility, no nothing.

  • Jim Mitchell

    No legal responsibility, Jon, yes. But you and Alex are focusing too narrowly on the legalities and ignoring the practical realities of public relations/reputational damage that the AMA might suffer and that Fibinaccignocchi has repeatedly tried to point out to you here. Yes, you are correct; no court of law would assign liability to the AMA for the unlawful actions of its landlord. The court of public opinion can and probably would, if this issue were publicized enough and the public thought it was unfair. Do I really think the AMA is going to suffer reputational damage sufficient for them to give a crap about this? No, I do not. But at least in principle, they could; and this has no connection with and is not dependent upon the legal responsibility or lack thereof they may have. And, yes, IAAL.

  • paulcycles

    Those are called security. They hate bike persons, love control, and like to harass those weaker, smarter, and more fun loving. Their emotions are jealousy, a need to dominate, and generally must do the bidding of their control freak building managers and goofy tenants. They need comeuppance and at the AMA building found the limits at our City’s sidewalk.


Today’s Headlines for Thursday, July 30

Emanuel Introduces Ordinance to Establish Rules for Privatizing City Assets (Sun-Times) Oak Parking Planning Neighborhood Greenway Network (Active Trans) MPC’s Skosey: New TOD Ordinance Would Mean More Residents & Revenue for Chicago (Crain’s) CNT’s Kyle Smith: TOD Reform Could Keep Chicago From Losing 3rd-Largest City Status (Crain’s) Long Grove Man Charged With Fatal DUI Pleads […]