After most students left campus for the summer, hundreds of bikes remained on racks. UT’s Parking and Transportation Services is tasked with finding, impounding and eventually auctioning off these forgotten vehicles.
PTS put a notice on their website that all bikes needed to be removed from dormitory racks by May 22 or they would be impounded. Each fall, all of the bikes impounded in the previous year are auctioned off.
Jeremy Hernandez, bike coordinator for PTS, is in charge of cutting the bikes from their locks and said this year he impounded more than 200 bikes.
“Most of the bikes we impound are decrepit with weathered seats, flat tires, rusted frames and chains,” Hernandez said in an email.
Blanca Gamez, assistant director for alternative transportation at PTS, said after the bikes are impounded, they are held for 90 days while PTS tries to contact the owner.
“If we don’t hear from anybody, then after 90 days, all of those bikes become University property,” Gamez said. “We can then go out and auction those bikes off.”
All of the revenue from the auction goes back into PTS’s bicycle program, Gamez said, paying for utilities such as Fix It Stations, pumps and bike racks. Last fall during their annual silent auction, a total of $13,000 was raised with an average of $50 per bike.
Gamez said the abandoned bikes are problematic because they take up space on the University’s bike racks.
“A lot of people leave bikes throughout the year,” Gamez said. “They may ride them once and then never touch them again. They stay there, and they take up space, some really valuable real estate for somebody who does cycle who wants to park next to their building.”
Many students are using heavier locks on their bikes, Gamez said, and that means using heavier-duty tools to impound the bikes.
“Some locks you can break with a pair of bolt cutters,” Gamez said. “Other types of locks that are a little bit more heavy duty, you have to use a welder in order to cut through the metal.”
Joseph Gregory, supervisor of the maintenance team, and his crew help Hernandez with physically breaking the locks on the bikes, usually with a grinder. Gregory said he was amazed by how many people leave their bikes unattended.
“We’re not there to rip somebody’s bike off; we’re there to clean the racks out,” Gregory said. “Most people that leave their bikes, they’re like throwaways. I’ve never understood that.”
This fall PTS will host their annual auction at San Jacinto garage for the bikes impounded this year.
Gamez said for students to avoid their bikes being auctioned off, the best thing to do is to register their bike with PTS.
“The important part of this is if you register your bike, then we have a way of contacting you,” Gamez said.