Much like some drivers did with their cars, cyclists this winter abandoned their bikes, locking them to racks and poles and sentencing them to a season buried under snow mountains that grew taller with each storm.
But with spring’s thaw underway, the bikes have slowly reappeared — and in many cases they’re mangled, twisted, and rusted.
“I’ve been seeing trashed bikes, snapped in half like twigs, with the frames and the wheels bent,” said Jonathan Fertig, a year-round cyclist.
Fertig took photos of contorted bikes during his morning commute last week, as city officials in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville began clearing away the wreckage and assessing bike racks also damaged by the historic snowfall.
“The racks themselves are flattened, or there are busted bikes locked to them,” Fertig said. “It looks like some of the bike racks were run over monster truck-style by snowplows. They’re sticking up out of the bricks.”
Starting this week, crews in Somerville will begin tagging bikes that appear to have been abandoned and damaged during the snowstorms.
“If the owners don’t remove them within 48 hours of being tagged, our police will remove them,” city spokeswoman Denise Taylor said.
Somerville officials are also keeping an eye out for bike racks that were toppled and uprooted and will replace those that are damaged.
In Boston, a formal assessment of damage hasn’t been completed, but Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office is seeking input from residents on ways to best identify racks around the city that need to be replaced or repaired, said city spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin.
Pete Stidman, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, has seen the wreckage.
“In some places, it’s like a little bike graveyard. It’s pretty sad,” he said. “I have seen a couple of bike racks that were bent, and I assume the city is fixing them.”
He said the damage to bikes and racks was not something he’d seen before.
“Usually, you can see the tops of the bike racks in the snow,” he said.
In Cambridge, city officials are similarly just getting a peek at buried bikes and racks and deciding what to do.
“[We] will begin inspecting and assessing their status over the next week. The city will remove any bicycle found that is not in working order or that is illegally parked,” city spokesman Lee Gianetti said in an e-mail.
The city routinely removes abandoned bicycles. But because this winter proved to be so ferocious, bicycles are emerging that were not abandoned, just inaccessible.
Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.