Dear PoPville – Does MPD Impound Bikes?

Photo by PoPville flickr user quemac

“Dear PoPville,

I was hoping if you could tell me whether the DC police dept. impounds bikes that have been locked to street signs or something else that isn’t a bike rack.

I called the 2nd district office and they said that do not, but a friend of mine’s bike was nearly impounded after it was left in front of a bar for several weeks, so I suspect otherwise.

I locked a vintage red Bianchi bicycle with a silver handlebar basket in front of 1145 19th St. on Sept. 5th. I went back to find it last Friday (I know, I’m an idiot for leaving it there for so long) and it was gone. I have a solid U-lock so I doubt it was stolen. I leave it locked in front of my building on Mt. Pleasant St. all the time. I’ve lived there for years and have never had issues.

Anyway, I thought maybe the police removed it since it was locked to a street sign. I welcome any tips you might have on tracking it down.”

I believe DDOT might impound bikes – does anyone know?

22 Comment

  • DC Police does not generally impound bikes. We can, but more than likely, DDOT removed it, more most likely, it was stolen. You can check with DDOT, but be prepared to need to have paperwork and serial numbers showing that you own the bike in order to get it back, assuming they have it.

    most likely, though, if you only left it a week or so, is that somebody stole it. We have a big problem with bike theft in that area.

  • I believe that DDOT only removes bikes from street signs if they have been there for a long time, or if someone reports it as abandoned (sounds like that’s what happened to your friend). In general I think you are allowed to lock your bike to a sign, just not leave it there for a long time. Your bike was probably stolen, but check with DDOT. I’m sorry.

  • a solid u locks mean nothing. my bike was stolen as it was locked with a kryptonite u-lock onto the bars of our front gate. the thieves had something that just tore through the lock-mechanism and undid it. I later saw a video of the process in action, it took less than 15 seconds. sigh…

    • Depending on the age of your lock, it can be opened by little more than the plastic cylinder of a bic ballpoint pen. Or, the thieves could have used a cordless circular saw with a grinder wheel and cut off the lock in about 20 seconds. Next time, don’t leave your bike sitting unattended for a week.

      • If you leave your circular saw and BIC pen at home, you can always just unbolt the sign from the post and hoist the bike up and over. I once saw a thief do this. I am ashamed to admit this, but I was so amused by the whole enterprise that I didn’t report it and wanted to give the thief a high-five (but I didn’t). Don’t lock your bike to a post less about 10 feet tall if just unbolting a sign would free the bike.

    • Yep, I will add to the chorus that a U-lock is no guarantee. My bike also had a brand spanking new Kryptonite lock and was stolen (from the immovable bike rack inside the locked bike room in my building, no less). I strongly recommend filing a police report; it can be done online for simple crimes like bike theft, and it’s super-easy. It’s a long shot, but at least you’ll have documentation on the off chance that MPD recovers your bike in a theft-ring bust or you happen to spot it on the streets in the future.

  • I feel like this blog should be renamed Prince of Bikes. Or maybe Prince of Bikes and Shootings.

      • [email protected]

    • It is getting rather played, huh?

      • Yes. Let’s please get back to free, long-term car storage on public spaces entitlement campaign. This talk about bicycles and pedestrians is positively urban!

  • Yes, MPD does have a repository of “recovered” bikes. They have a Flickr account with photos here:

    More info on claiming it can be found here:

    • These are not “impounded”, these are bikes that are recovered from fencing operations or from thieves. Your bike would be here, only if it was stolen and later recovered. MPDPOP is right, DDOT does the impounded not MPD. Y

  • You might want to contact the Golden Triangle BID. They have a streetscape department that might have removed it, or the adjacent property owner?

  • It’s lawful to lock a bike to a street sign, so I doubt MPD impounded it. Your bike was probably stolen.

    From WABA’s Pocket Guide to Bike Laws (

    Section 1209.2 states, “A person may secure a bicycle
    to a stanchion [parking meter or other pole] by means
    of a lock or similar device as long as securing the
    bicycle does not obstruct or unduly impede traffic or
    pedestrian movement and as long as securing bicycles
    has not been forbidden by any notice posted by the
    Director. However, according to 1209.3 you cannot
    lock to the following:
    (a) Fire hydrants;
    (b) Police and fire call boxes;
    (c) Electric traffic signal poles;
    (d) Stanchions or poles located within bus zones or
    (e) Stanchions or poles located within twenty-five feet
    (25 ft.) of an intersection;
    (f) Trees underten inches (10 in.)in diameter.

    • Worth noting that the law also states that “A person may secure a bicycle to a stanchion for a period of not more than twelve (12) consecutive hours, by means of a lock or similar device.”

      But this is generally not enforced. Usually if MPD or DDOT is impounding bikes, they make an announcement, tag the bikes for removal, and remove them several days after tagging.

  • it was stolen

    • This is all that needed to be said. Also, what makes someone think that the MPD or another organization can remove your lock, a thief could not

    • This is all that needed to be said. Also, what makes someone think that the MPD or another organization can remove your lock, a thief could not

  • If MPD and DDOT have the ability to impound a locked bike, they must have ways and tools to open a u-lock. If a u-lock was totally secure, MPD wouldn’t be able to impound it. But u-locks are not, so bikes can be impounded or stolen. My u-lock confidence fairy was killed by a guy with a pipe. I suspect his name was Archimedes.

  • Yeah, unfortunately the U locks just don’t cut it. My bike got stolen from my front yard where it was U locked to my fence. I was asleep at the time and “dreamed” that I heard someone with an electric saw. You know the rest.

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