Support BikePortland

Ask BikePortland: Who takes the fall for a fallen bike?

Posted by on September 21st, 2015 at 11:14 am

On-street bike parking downtown-17.jpg

When all you wanted was a parking spot and you ended up with a moral dilemma.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Have you ever accidentally knocked over someone else’s bike when you locked up your own? If so, what did you do about it?

Reader Christopher S. wrote to us recently and asked how he should respond after he tipped over someone’s bike while trying to lock up to a pole.

Here’s his question:

“…As I was locking up my bike the bike next to mine tipped over since it wasn’t secured to the pole with anything more than a cable lock. No big deal. Happens all the time. So I picked up the bike and leaned it back on the rack. I noticed that the frame had a small dent from the fall (from this fall or another one I don’t know).

Bikes tip over on bike racks all time when not securely locked to the pole. I’ve found my bike on the ground a few times when I was too lazy to make sure it was secured properly. Anyways, I left a note simply stating what happened and left my e-mail in case the person wants to write me (or sue me?).

Advertisement

So what does one do in this situation? Was leaving a note too much or maybe not enough? Should I expect this person to try and get money out of me and if so am I legally or morally obligated to pay it?”

Thanks for the question Christopher. In my opinion you did the right thing. You were very kind to leave a note, especially since it wasn’t clear if the dent was from you or someone else.

Has this ever happened to you? Or have you been on the other side where your bike was damaged by someone locking up next to you?

If so, how did you respond?

— Read more from our Ask BikePortland column.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

38 Comments
  • Avatar
    SilkySlim September 21, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Depends, was the bike wearing a helmet? At least a top tube pad? Not trying to victim blame, but it is a dangerous world out there and you need to look out for #1. 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Mark September 21, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I have door dings all over my van. Mostly from the Walmart people. Even if I witnessed the denting event….nobody would care. I could claim it on my insurance…..

    Point is…cars are king and nobody cares about dings. Don’t commute with a Ferrari. Same goes for bikes if it worries you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      canuck September 21, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Since you were at Walmart does that not make you a Walmart person as well?

      No sure how disparaging those who shop at Walmart helps but hope it makes you feel better.

      They are much like the folks who, shop at the Community Cycling Center, in search of a items within their price range.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Mark September 21, 2015 at 1:15 pm

        Your bar for disparaging is pretty low. Everyone else pretty much got it. But..just in case.

        Don’t ding doors at walmart…of you too will be a “Walmart person”.

        Or knock over bikes, or lock yours to another bike.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        gutterbunnybikes September 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm

        Some folks actually can afford more bike, but shop at CCC because:

        1) “It’s the rider, not the bike”
        2) we like old bikes (all of my bicycles are between 40-100 years old) there are only a handful of shops in town that might have parts of such vintages.
        3) we like CCC’s values and the programs they sponsor and support.

        CCC is almost always my first or second stop in looking for bicycles or parts. And by far one of the best shops in town to refer new riders to, since they can get a great bicycle to learn on (few people ever stick with their first bike) without spending a fortune. The entire bike boom of the 70 was mostly due to the Schwinn Varsity, Stumpjumpers or Trek 800’s for 90’s mountain biking boom – they’re all still great bicycles. It’s not like the technology has really changed much since then (carbon and discs is about it – and neither is necessary for 99% of you).

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Avatar
        Chris I September 22, 2015 at 12:05 am

        Wal Mart is just terrible. For home good items and clothing, Target is basically the same. Food? Total garbage. They have zero healthy options. Smart people on a budget shop at WinCo for food, and second-hand for everything else.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Steve Scarich September 22, 2015 at 11:21 am

      My first reaction was that your comment was a bit arrogant. But, I thought about it and you have a point. Most bike racks do not provide real stability or protection for a bike. They are just a convenience. Expecting complete protection is a bit unrealistic. I no longer bike-commute, but if I did (and had to put my bike in a publicly-accessible rack), it would only be on a beater.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Mark September 21, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Not sure what a Ferrari bike would be…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Melissa September 21, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I was sitting outside (close to where my bike was locked up) when some drunk guy plowed into my bike, knocking it over and scratching it all up (which I didn’t notice until the next day)… and I know that the scratches came from this guy because my bike was almost brand new at the time. He was so busy laughing and stumbling around that he didn’t even pick my bike back up. I should have said something, but I didn’t want to start anything as he was drunk and being really dumb. So, I guess that part was my bad, but still. People should be a little more kind. And don’t ride while drunk!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    WAR September 21, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Pick it up and prop it up better.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      are September 21, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      and maybe leave a note explaining how to lock a bike so it doesn’t fall

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Spiffy September 21, 2015 at 11:36 am

    I’ve knocked over a couple of bikes before… picked them up and re-leaned them…

    I’ve never come back to my bike on the ground…

    usually other’s bikes do a half fall as the front wheel turns and the front of the bike starts to dip then is caught by the lock and the top of the bike rack… prop it straight up again and continue your routine…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      WAR September 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Don’t touch my bike bro. Are you stealing it?

      JK lol.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dave September 21, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Stop your whining. It’s only paint. My favorite story of a great thing screwed up by paint scratch whiners: Before 1976 Amtrak would let you do on any train what they’re slowly reinstituting–roll up to the baggage car, show your ticket, stow your bike in baggage, and ride away from the other end of your trip. Bikecentennial in the summer of 1976, lots of cycletourists loading their bikes on trains, lots of paint scratch whiners kvetching and moaning about scratches from baggage car travel–Amtrak throws up their hands and says “put ’em in boxes.” Learn to use touchup paint. It’s only paint. Repeat, it’s only paint.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      soren September 21, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      clear coat. clear nail polish and some wet sanding buffs them away though.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Captain Karma September 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Every time I buy a new bike, the bike shop says “we don’t have touch up paint” (to match). The corporation says they do. So wtf. I’ve always wanted to take a new bike and give it a really bad paint job, too many stickers etc. to deter theft. Never could bring myself to it. Not sure it would work anyway.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    9watts September 21, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Speaking of not locked properly, the photo of the Bridgestone at the top of the article sure does a nice job of illustrating that point. Yikes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Fred #17 September 21, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Just, for the love of all that is holy, park with your drivetrain out so we can all fit… I have pictures of full bike corrals, well, they’re not full, only one half is full, drivetrain in… so nobody else can park…

    Probably a huge contributor to knocking bikes over too…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Dan Sr. September 21, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      Please explain? I usually park with my drivetrain facing the staple to prevent damage etc.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rachel b September 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    We have a secure bike room at work and it gets packed in summer (well, and now with Portland’s routinely very non-Portland weather; year round). A lot of people don’t seem to know how to park their bikes–lots of tangled, collapsing heaps. Anyway–a tutorial on bikeportland wouldn’t go amiss, I think! 🙂 As for me, I’d be mad if someone caused mechanical damage to my bike and left no note, but scrapes and scratches I’m easy about. I’d leave a note if I scratched someone else’s bike, though. There’s no telling how anyone else may feel about it and I wouldn’t presume.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    pdx2wheeler September 21, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    If you’re concerned about scratches just find a crayon with the same paint color as your bike. Fill in the scratch with the crayon wax by rubbing perpendicular to the direction of the scratch… buff with a soft cloth. If you do it right scratches become invisible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      gutterbunnybikes September 21, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      You can almost always find your color in a nail polish as well.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Dave September 21, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Try hobby paint or auto touchup–better in small spot coverage.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Steven Soto September 21, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I expect Eben Weiss will tell us tomorrow.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Liu
    John Liu September 21, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I think if you regularly park your bike at a rack with just a loosely attached cable, it should be a bike you’re not at all fussy about. If it is a bike that you can’t stand to see with even a little scratch, then it is your responsibility to take more caution with your own things. I don’t commute on my most prized bikes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      WAR September 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      I usually just grab the wheel-set off of it and be on my way.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    gutterbunnybikes September 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    I ditched derailleurs for IGH bikes because of people always banging them up while I was parked at the bike racks.

    More on topic, most bikes can take such the fall just fine, I’d just prop it back up and go.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Adron Hall September 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I knock one over, I pick it up. Rarely though, since I know how to not do that. However if someone locks their bike tight, and it’s stuck to the stand so anothe rbike can’t go parallel, I’ll pull it away. I don’t mean to bend anything and am very careful, but people ought not to lock their bikes like that with small u-locks on the front wheel and front frame. That’s just ridiculous. :-/ Grrr.

    But in the end, I make a strident effort to NOT do any damage to anything.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    B. Carfree September 21, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    I’m a tiny bit surprised that most of the commenters here don’t feel any responsibility for knocking down someone’s bike. How hard is it to park a bike and not cause damage? When it happens, what kind of person is it who makes no effort to apologize and make it right by the person who suffered the harm, even if their own actions partially contributed?

    Perhaps the clique of BP needs to get over itself a wee bit.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      WAR September 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      BP if you knock a bike over. Pick it up.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Chris I September 22, 2015 at 12:16 am

      9/10 it happens when you remove your bike from the rack. It’s not my fault that someone leaned their bike against mine rather than lock it properly.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dwaine Dibbly September 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    I try to treat every bike like it is my own, like every bike is somebody’s baby, even the beaters. I’m very careful when locking. That prevents a lot of falls, but if it happens, I pick it up. Note? If it was obviously damaged by the fall, yes. The nicer the bike the more likely I’d leave a note. (I’ve never needed to do that, though.)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Ann September 21, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    At work once, I broke someone’s bike side mirror with my handlebar while unlocking. Well, I think I broke it- it was broken, in any case. I left a note offering to replace it, but I didn’t hear from them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jonno September 21, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    So my lockup habit is to lock my mini kryptonite around the head tube and whatever I’m locking to. Feels to me that this keeps your bike from rolling front or back which is what usually leads to a tip over. Well, among other things…anyway, been dong that for a decade plus, no falls unless everyone’s just been super polite so far 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar