Jacob Alkov chained his Schwinn to a loading zone sign at Lincoln Road and Pennsylvania Avenue several weeks ago. It was a Sunday and, he says, all the racks in the area were already loaded with bicycles.
When he returned, a sticker was affixed to his ride. “Park your bicycle at a nearby bike rack to avoid having your bike impounded and taken to the Miami Beach Police Department,” it read. “Fines may also be imposed.”
Alkov, who has lived in Miami Beach for 20 years, has long used a bike as his main form of transportation because it's “less of a headache” than trying to find a place to park. But the 49-year-old now says he feels like the City of Miami Beach is discriminating against certain types of bicycles.
As Miami Beach pushes cyclists to lock up only on approved racks, Alkov claims that riders on Citi Bikes — the publicly available rentals stationed throughout the city — can get away with parking anywhere they want.
Not only has he spotted the rentals on Lincoln Road, where bikes are banned (and provided photos of those bikes to New Times), but he says the riders also don’t have to worry about parking because Citi Bike racks are all over the place.
“The point is, if the city is treating everybody the same way, why do they have thousands of Citi Bike racks for the Citi Bikes?” Alkov asks. “They have to give a thousand bike racks for people in the city [who ride their own bikes] to be fair.”
But Melissa Berthier, a spokeswoman for the city, says there are more than 100 bike racks near Lincoln Road, with no shortage of space. She says the ordinances that ban bikes from Lincoln Road and require the use of bike racks are enforced for all kinds of bikes — and Citi Bikes are no exception.
“I can tell you we treat Citi Bike the same,” Berthier says.
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The city's crackdown on bike parking has been a contentious move. Earlier this year, the city tweeted that cyclists should “Move it or lose it,” meaning they should secure their bikes to racks instead of street signs, parking meters, or anything else. Otherwise, they’d risk having the bike impounded for “illegal parking,” the city cautioned.
An online firestorm followed, with scores of people saying the city doesn’t have enough bike racks to take such a stance.
But Berthier says friendly reminders such as the one Alkov received seem to have solved the illegal parking problem: No bikes have been impounded. The city hasn’t tracked the number of reminders given out.
Alkov says his reminder felt far from friendly, though. He says he's become almost afraid to take his bike out. “Why are they chasing me?” he asks. “I put my bike on a sign. So what?”