Have you "adopted" an abandoned bicycle in Japan?

Byron Kidd
Well its finally happened, a mountain bike that has been abandoned outside out apartment for almost 2 years had been removed.

I originally wrote about this bicycle, and how would have loved to repair it and send it to a loving home before the elements destroyed it, in May 2009 after it had been sitting in the street for over 2 months.  A little love and care and it would have been good as new, but even though it was obviously abandoned, me taking and repairing it would still amount to stealing it so I left it to its fate.

Soon to be scrapped.
Little did I know that its fate was to sit in the same place, stuffed halfway into a hedge beside the sidewalk for almost 2 years.  In April this year I commented again on how surprised I was that the bicycle had not been collected for recycling or destruction.

By the time it was collected last Tuesday it had been stripped of a fair number of usable parts, and thoroughly ruined by the elements, sadly rendering it unfit for recycling and resale.

In Tokyo where abandoned bicycle are usually removed with ruthless efficiency I was perplexed by the staying power of this little white mountain bike.  But disappointed that it wasn't collected earlier when it could still have been recycled, rather than being left to rot then sent to scrap.

Friends have done it, but I've never "liberated" an abandoned bicycle.  There is a Giant Escape which has been abandoned at our apartment for almost 2 years that is still salvageable.  Its amazingly light for such an inexpensive bicycle and would make an awesome commuter bike with its slick tires, rack and fenders.  But as it is registered to its previous owner, and that owner has left the country there is no way to legally transfer ownership, so its left to rust away.  What an unfortunate waste.

Have you ever adopted an abandoned bicycle in Japan?

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  1. In Tokyo, I borrowed the keys to an old bike my roomate bought for 2000yen - and I lost them. It were the only pair of keys he had to this bike so I spent some hours looking around Shinjuku Station to find them again. I didn't and the bike was left standing in front of the station where I locked it. This was in November 2009. Before my departure from Tokyo in June, I looked if the bike was still there. It was - more than half a year after I locked it there. With a big red paper on the handle bar, but otherwise okay. Maybe it's still there...

  2. to stay on topic, we tried to take care of this abandoned bike, but were kinda trying not to raise suspicions, which is hard to do already as a gaijin, by carrying the bike away.

    maybe this explains the how and why of other abandoned bikes in tokyo: lost keys and scared gaijins...

  3. I have adopted abandoned bicycles in the past but it is a risky business. Since the police lay out headlight traps in my neighborhood from time to time. 2 or 3 will stake out a section of street and stop as many people as they can to tell them to turn on their headlights and to check their registrations. Now I will only adopt an abandoned bicycle if it does not have the yellow registration sticker on it. Without the sticker I think it is hard for the police to track it. I suppose they could look of the serial number but I don't think the average koban officer is that ambitious. In any case, I haven't adopted a bicycle in a few years. I have no place to put it.

  4. Strangely enough I had a vivid dream of 'liberating' a bicycle just last night! Although I have never actually done this, I have been an accomplice and lent out a pedal wrench to a friend who needed to replace the pedal on an abandoned folding bike he found. In Japan it is so common to see bikes abandoned it makes me wonder how often they are taken. The registration does pose a problem and it seems like a trademark of the Japanese to leave stuff where it lies.
    Interesting post

  5. Actually a friend of mine "borrowed" a bicycle from in front of Ikebukuro station one evening after last train. He rode it home fully intending to return it the next morning after he inflated the tires and adjusted the brakes to say "thanks" to the owner. The only problem was that while he slept someone stole the bicycle from in front of his apartment before he could return it.

    The full story is here: http://www.tokyobybike.com/2008/05/mysterious-nomadic-bicycle-few-years.html

  6. Also worth noting that the two motorcycles in the picture posted with the article are both abandoned as well. I'm sure somewhere there is a motorcycle lover blogging and dreaming of liberating those.

  7. A friend and I liberated two from Ayase station in the mid-nineties (what's the 'statute of limitations'?). We made sure to find two so covered in dust they'd have to have been left for weeks, and figured registration would get them back to their owners. Too bad his tires went flat and he rode the tires off the rims, and we were so lit we thought tossing them in the canal would clean the canal - so much for the registration. Bad Gaijin, bad.

  8. My bicycle is sitting outside my apartment (in Sendai) but the people here are too nice to take it away for me.

  9. I was just in NY and took notice of the same abandoned bicycle problem. The most interesting thing I found after my research was how some NYU students were trying to see if they could save them and give them to students. Thought that was a good idea...

  10. Hi guys. Ive just moved to Tokyo and for the last 30 days on my way to station there are about 5 or 6 abandoned bicycles. Only one its in quite good chape, despite it looks that it have been there for at least some months...dirty and tires are empty. although its a nice aluminum folding bicycle. I was thinking of taking it and repair some parts. My wife which is a Japanese national said that as it doesn't have a registration number it might not be a problem but I am afraid to take. Is there anyway to take it and register afterwards? Thanx.

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