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Reduce, Reuse, Re-Cycle? D.C. Junks Abandoned Bikes

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Bikes like this one, abandoned at the corner of 5th St. & H St. NW could be put to better use.
Bikes like this one, abandoned at the corner of 5th St. & H St. NW could be put to better use.

You may see them chained at the Metro stop, on a sidewalk, or city street. Abandoned bikes are considered unsightly, and they're being removed — only to be put in the trash.

At the corner of Park Rd. and 14th St., what someone left, Chris Holben may take. "There's a bike locked up to a bike rack that is missing its rear tire. It looks like it is about on its way to being an abandoned bicycle," says Holben. Holben is the bicycle program specialist with the District Department of Transportation.

"Any bike locked up longer than 12 hours is considered abandoned," says Holben.

Over the past year, DDOT received 250 requests to remove abandoned bikes. "We've removed a little over 200," he says.

Holben says it takes about 30 days to remove the bikes, including a 10-day period where the bikes are tagged, giving the owners a chance to retrieve them.

Currently, Holben says DDOT has nowhere to store the abandoned bikes, and says they are simply thrown out.  "A lot of times they are just junk, and I don't know, but I assume that they are recycled, as we recycle things at the landfills," says Holben.

Henry Dunbar of Phoenix Bikes in Arlington says he would reuse the bikes in a program teaching kids about bike repair. "We would take the bikes in any condition," says Dunbar. "We can certainly find a use for it, even if at the end it becomes an art project, we can still use them if they're not suitable for riding."

Right now, Holben says DDOT has no plans to stop throwing the bikes out.

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