A few days ago, someone called Chad Nuttall emailed me with a good idea (I assume he contacted me because of my post about Igor Kenk’s stolen bikes). The police have recovered upwards of 2,700 bikes from Igor’s various storage spaces, and only a few hundred have been claimed. Instead of simply auctioning the remaining bikes off (standard police procedure), he thought, why not distribute them to people in need, who could really use a bike but might not be able to afford them?
I thought this was a great idea. It’s a city goal to get more people cycling, especially outside the central city. It would be a great idea to give bikes to youth in the various “priority neighbourhoods”, which would both get them into cycling, and provide them with independent mobility they may well lack at the moment. While a lot of Igor’s bikes probably need a lot of work, I’m sure it would be possible to get volunteers to show youth how to fix the bikes up, thus also providing useful skills.
I suggested he contact the Toronto Cyclists Union. It turned out they had received similar suggestions from others, and were already working on the idea. Unfortunately, when their coordinator, Rick Conroy, contacted Toronto Police Services, he got the following response:
We have also received messages like the one below. Unfortunately our legal advice says the Police Services Act precludes us from doing that.
Director of Public Information, Toronto Police Service
I can imagine, as my colleague Matt Blackett hypothesized, that there is something in the Police Services Act to prevent police giving away stolen goods for fear of potential favouritism. But I’m sure that there must be ways around this, too — for example, giving the bikes to a registered charity. “Legal paralysis” — where no-one wants to do anything original for fear of possible legal repercussions — is a 21st century condition, but we need to keep it in perspective. Often solutions can be found if there is a real will to do so. It would be great if this moment of sudden bike-awareness in Toronto, and the tragedy of possibly thousands of stolen bikes, could be turned into a happy ending of bikes for youth who need them, creating new cyclists across the city.
photo by Camille King