The City of San Diego Is Once Again Destroying Bikes Belonging to Unhoused Residents

sacramento tent city fills up jobless and homeless
San Diego is Under Fire for Destroying BikesJustin Sullivan - Getty Images

A now-viral video is circulating around Twitter of workers in San Diego not just rounding up bikes and other pieces of equipment belonging to the city’s unhoused residents, but also destroying them in the process. Decent-looking bikes are seen being tossed into a compacting garbage truck, spurring outrage not just at the fact that the bikes are being taken from the unhoused population, but because the bikes are being destroyed rather than repurposed.

Michael McConnell, who runs the @HomelessnessSD Twitter account, posted this video:

I admit, a depressing sense of déjà vu swept over me as I read the Twitter thread for this article. It seemed entirely too familiar—because it was. Almost exactly a year ago today, Bicycling published an article titled, “The City of San Diego Trashes Bicycles Owned by Homeless Residents.” In it, reporter James Stout detailed the sweeps of these encampments, and how they often happen with only the required three-hour warning, forcing people to scatter with only the belongings they can hold—assuming they heard the warning in the first place.

Why is this same exact thing happening every single year? Part of it, as we reported last year, is almost certainly the city’s desire to “clear out” the area around Petco Stadium while the baseball season is in full swing.

But as we know, bicycles may be an important tool for the unhoused population in any area, providing people with a source of free, reliable transportation. “I’m incredibly frustrated that San Diego continues to destroy bicycles found in encampments,” Jacob Mandel tweeted. “For unhoused people, a bicycle can be a lifeline - providing low-cost/free transportation to employment could break the cycle of poverty. The city is destroying these lifelines.”

That’s part of why bike libraries and co-ops are growing in many cities: Providing anyone with the ability to travel on two wheels is one way to allow people more freedom of movement. To take the bikes away—and destroy them—makes little sense. As the city is home to more than 8,000 unhoused people (an increase since 2020), destroying the few belongings that they do have seems unconscionable.

“While I understand there is some nuance and importance to these encampment cleanups, I struggle to understand what policy objective we’re achieving here by destroying these bicycles and other property,” Mandel added on Twitter.

Naturally, the conversation on Twitter took a turn for the negative, with some commenters suggesting that all of the bikes were ‘stolen property anyway.’ However, as plenty of others pointed out, even if some of the bikes were stolen, shouldn’t they be reunited with their owners rather than instantly trashed? Others were quick to point out the obvious: Saying that all the bikes were stolen is outrageously offensive. And a few others were quick to jump into the conversation to say that they have had bikes stolen—but would rather see them in use by someone who needs them, rather than trashed in a landfill. Clearly, the destruction of bikes and property isn’t solving anything, considering this bike destruction sequence seems to be happening on an annual basis.

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