From the Forum – Tree box fence/preventing bicycle parking on a young tree


Tree box fence/preventing bicycle parking on a young tree

“Does anyone have any recommendations for a good company/contractor for a tree box fence? We have a really young tree and despite “no bicycle parking” signs there is always some idiot who padlocks their bike to the tree. Since the tree is so little, this means that it ends up tilting – we have already had to pay a landscaping company once to come, dig it out, and straighten it.

Suggestions for preventing bicycle parking also welcome!”

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29 Comment

  • If cyclists are locking to a tree, it’s because there isn’t enough space at nearby bike racks (or there are no bike racks at all). If you install one, or request that the city installs one, it might help solve the problem.

    As a cyclist I try to avoid locking to trees anyway because I know that a determined thief can still get my bike by cutting the tree. Seems crazy but you hear stories about it. The younger the tree of course the less secure the bike.

    • It also damages the tree, and is illegal. Everyone should avoid locking to trees. If you’re willing to expend the energy to bike, you should be willing to walk a couple blocks to lock up.

      • Agreed, and as a cyclist I would never dream of locking my bike to a tree. But as with most other things, it’s best to make policy in a way that makes good behavior the easiest course of action. Some people will be horrible citizens anyway – that’s just life – but the VAST majority will lock their bike to a rack if it’s available. Unfortunately, even in most parts of downtown there aren’t enough bike racks to satisfy demand, and the situation is even worse in residential neighborhoods. Unless the neighborhood is effectively a suburb, there ought to be at least one or two on every square block.

      • It’s illegal to lock to a tree less than ten inches in diameter (which is pretty big) in D.C. If it’s one idiot, I suppose you print out the regulation or the relevant page from WABA’s guide and tape it to his bike. Or call 311 to get him ticketed.

    • I had this recurring problem in my tree box, so I made up an official-looking tag threatening to cut the locks and impound the bikes. Never had the problem again.

  • Is the tree on your lawn or on the sidewalk? I don’t have a specific contractor to recommend but oftentimes there are programs to have tree boxes installed if it’s on the sidewalk.

    This city is woefully short of bike parking. You might want to request a bike rack from DPW to prevent folks from locking up against the tree.

  • I thought it was illegal to put a fence (or anything taller than the sidewalk level) around the tree box. Or is that just along the curb?

    • PDleftMtP

      I think it’s just along the curb, but in any event, since you have to leave it open on one side, I don’t think the fencing will be effective.

    • According to the DDOT “Public Realm Design Manual – July 2011” (, “”Borders include low fencing or curbs around tree box areas. For the safety of people exiting vehicles,borders should not be placed on the curbside of the tree space and should be between 4 and 12 inches in height. Wickets and other tripping hazards are strictly prohibited (DCMR 24-109.9 and DEM-47.5.3).” Refer to pages 3-19 to 3-22 for additional guidelines about beautifying the tree box. For bike racks, refer to pages 3-23 to 3-24.

      • I would think that any border between 4″ and 12″ would be a tripping hazard. But I guess not.

  • This is why, in my weird roundabout way, I do not like knitters yarn-bombing trees. It feeds into the notion trees are canvases, this post being a more harmful example. Just leave trees alone.

  • Well here’s the twice weekly post inviting people to sh*t on cyclists. Before all the suburbanites-at-heart call for prison time for anyone on two wheels, 99% of cyclists are considerate enough not to lock to a tree. Especially a young tree. Not only does it hurt the tree, it’s pretty easy to steal.
    Unfortunately I don’t think you can put up an effective fence for this. You could try putting some sort of collar around the tree trunk (so it’s too big to get a lock around). You could also try a more explicit sign.
    If parking is the problem try to get a rack installed. There are definitely blocks in Dupont and Logan with tons of biker traffic and no rack on the entire block. It’s wrong but not surprising that bikers resort to trees.

    • +1 to all of this.

    • Another cyclist here seconding the +1s.

      In terms of a more forceful sign, I’d recommend some tree-centric, guilt-inducing language. ‘Save our young tree – Please don’t lock your bike to me’; ‘Protect our tree growth project. No bikes please’; etc. Anyone who locks their bike to a tree is probably either desperate for a parking spot and/or a jerk so is going to do it anyway, but specifically appealing to the wellbeing of the tree might make a few more think twice about it and walk an block to another spot. At least I would…

      • I agree with this. I think explaining (on the sign) that the reason for no bicycle parking is because it damages the tree will stop most people from doing it.

      • And if it’s the same guy all the time, maybe put a note on the bike saying–nicely–hey, is it possible to lock your bike elsewhere because our little tree is struggling?

    • A real cyclist won’t lock a bike to a tree. This is about someone who happens to have a bike doing something obviously stupid.

  • Does the tree already have one of those watering bags? If you add one and secure it as high up the tree as possible, that might take away some of the “real estate” for someone thinking about locking their bike to the tree.

  • Two options for how I would handle the situation:
    -Place another lock on the bike. Include a Post-It note stating: “please call me @ XXX-XXXX to unlock your bike.” Ask them to respect the sign and not lock the bike to tree for the reasons mentioned in your post.
    -Invest in a cordless bench grinder (you can also rent it from Home Depot for a day). Cut that lock and again leave a Post-It, instructing them how to get in contact with you to reclaim their bike.
    Both are sufficient for getting your message across. Also, you can be sure that they will tell all their friends about the incident. The word-of-mouth will be enough to get them to think twice about locking to a tree in the future.

    • Wow. I can only imagine the response if someone suggested booting or stealing a car that was illegally parked in the bike lane. The fact that someone is being a jerk does not justify theft or destruction of property.

    • Don’t do this, it will just lead to unnecessary confrontations. People can get pretty worked up about this kind of thing. I would never lock my bike to a tree, but in the unlikely event someone did something like this to me I would call the police.
      It’s also unlikely to be an effective deterrent. If there’s someone who is in your neighborhood regularly I doubt they’re always locking their bike to the same tree. It’s probably a high traffic location that a bunch of people use.

    • Do you want to see your young tree cut? Because that’s how you get your young tree cut.

  • It might be the case that the people who lock bikes there don’t realize that it causes damage to the young tree. They might think that the ‘no bikes’ sign was posted by someone who just has a thing against bikes. Could you add something to the sign that specifically says that bikes will hurt the tree? My younger biking self may not have fully understood the damage that could be caused.

    If there is a tree box around the tree, you could also try putting in some other plantings, flowers, etc which would get in the way of parking a bike there and hopefully deter people. (Or, conversely, you might just get someone stepping on your flowers.)

  • Put 3 stakes around the tree, and wire in between them.

  • Call or Tweet 311 or go online to fill out a formal request from the city at to alert them of the problem. Via 311 you can do the following:
    1. Request a bike rack to be installed nearby
    2. Request tree box fencing, or stakes for the young tree

    You can also contact your ANC commissioner and Ward Councilmember and ask them to help you getting what you want (a bike rack for the “idiots”, better protection for the tree). Find your ANC representative by visiting:

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