The term bike theft doesn’t often conjure images of multibillion dollar corporations, but that is what some Toronto cyclists are accusing Brookfield Office Properties of committing.
Cyclist Lisa Ferguson locked her bike to a TTC pole outside the Hudson’s Bay Centre at Bloor and Yonge streets Wednesday. When she returned 90 minutes later the bike was gone, said Ferguson in a Facebook post.
Believing it stolen, she approached a security guard in an attempt to see security footage of the theft. Instead, she found the culprit. The guard told Ferguson he had cut the lock of her bike and others, and put the bikes in storage inside the building. He was following company policy to remove any bikes locked to private property.
City staff confirmed, however, the sidewalk within 5.5 metres of the curb is public property.
The councillor for the area, Kristyn Wong-Tam, tweeted saying the same thing.
According to Official Record of Highways, the #TTC sign and bikes are on the City’s right of way. #bikeTO #BloorYonge pic.twitter.com/9T5FUDd9us — Kristyn Wong-Tam 黃慧文 (@kristynwongtam) August 14, 2014
“What right does a private company have to remove my personal property from public space?” Ferguson asked during an interview with CityNews.
“(If I didn’t check with security) I would have gone home and assumed that my bicycle was stolen.”
In total, security removed three bikes from poles and trees outside Hudson’s Bay Centre Wednesday, Brookfield confirmed in an email to CityNews. It later revealed that it has six bikes in storage, and said cyclists can retrieve them at the security desk if they can prove ownership.
“Brookfield works hard to ensure bike riders have a safe place to store their bikes at our buildings, as part of our large commitment to sustainability,” said Brookfield spokesperson Andrew Willis in an email. “At the Hudson Bay Centre, those storage facilities include exterior public bike racks for everyone to use, interior public bike racks and a secure bike storage shed within our parking garage.”
The company later admitted that the pole was on city property, but said the bikes were removed due to safety concerns.
“There have been instances at this location whereas pedestrians have tripped over or otherwise been injured by bicycles affixed to the pole,” it said.
The city, however, says it hasn’t received any complaints about bicycles locked to that specific pole.
Willis said he had reached out to Ferguson to ensure her bike had been returned and reimburse the cost of the broken bike lock. Ferguson is not the only cyclist whose bike has gone missing in that area.
Holden told us in an email she had checked with security who promised to check their storage facility for her bike. She added that this incident points to a need for more legitimate bike parking to be made available in the neighbourhood.