In many cities, there are local ordinances that prohibit using trees as bike racks. Several years ago, I was running some errands, and as there weren’t any official bike racks on the block, I locked to a small tree, and ran into a store for maybe 10 minutes. By the time I returned, I found that the tree had swelled in anger, devouring my bike, and was starting in on the lock as well:

Just kidding.

My bike was still there. But the city parking authority had zip-tied a note to my handlebars, which listed structures that it is illegal to lock a bike to: parking meters, railings, benches, and, of course, trees.

I actually came across this travesty of a bike rack on my way home just the other day. It reminded me of that note I got from the city all those years ago, because at the time, I couldn’t figure out what was so wrong with locking my bike to a tree – and here is the perfect demonstration.

But I do wonder exactly how something like this could have happened. At first, I thought that that the city might have removed/impounded the bike that was locked to this tree (as they eventually do with all abandoned bikes), but never figured out how to remove the lock. Or maybe this was somebody’s regular locking spot, where they left their lock for everyday use. Could they have moved away without removing the lock first, or lost the key? Anyone else have other ideas?

Regardless, it’s actually pretty sad for this tree. Cycling is a great way to do something good for the environment – let’s not spoil that by killing off the trees with our bike locks. But sights like these should also be motivation to install proper bike racks, so that “There was no bike rack” is no longer an excuse for locking to any other large stationary object in the vicinity.

Of course, I ride a folding bike now, so the availability (or not) of bike racks is much less of an issue for me than it used to be. Whether there just isn’t one close by, or whether it’s full, I usually just take my bike inside.


Biologists, arborists, engineers, metallurgists, and anyone else out there who can shed some light on this: will the tree eventually break the lock? Or will the lock strangle the tree? As the tree grows taller and heavier on top, will it become too much for the constricted trunk to support? Anyone know how to get the lock off at this point, without doing further damage to the tree?

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