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Private company no longer removing bikes from city property: Coun. Wong-Tam

A property management company which was found to be cutting locks and seizing bicycles parked on city land has reportedly told police it will stop the practice.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam said on Twitter Friday that an executive with Brookfield Office Properties has ordered employees to no longer impound bikes locked on the city sidewalk in front of the Hudson’s Bay Store at Yonge and Bloor streets.

Brookfield earlier said the bikes are a safety and tripping hazard and have caused injuries in the past — a claim that was not supported by city staff.

The removal of the bikes came to light when cyclist Lisa Ferguson locked her bike to a TTC pole outside the Hudson’s Bay Centre on Wednesday. When she returned 90 minutes later it was gone.

Believing it stolen, she approached a security guard in an attempt to see surveillance footage of the theft. Instead, she found the culprit. The guard told Ferguson he had cut the lock off her bike and others and put them in storage inside the building.

He was following company policy to remove any bikes locked to private property, and Brookfield later said it had six seized bicycles in its possession.

City staff confirmed, however, that the sidewalk within 5.5 metres of the curb is public property.

Cyclists in the area say they’re frustrated by the lack of spots where they can lock up and have been forced to get creative — using street signs, fences and TTC poles.

Wong-Tam said that while locking up at such sports may not strictly be legal, by-laws were relaxed two years ago because of a lack of infrastructure.

Now, officers respond only if a complaint is made.

“It’s not OK, but [cyclists] are simply doing it because they have no place to put their bicycles,” she said.

Thousands of cyclists pass through the area every day and Wong-Tam said the city needs to install a couple of hundred posts to keep up with demand.

She said she plans to contact the Yorkville BIA to discuss how they can make the area more bike friendly.