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San Francisco considers cracking down on bicycle "chop shops"

Fiona Wong/Flickr



San Francisco may crack down on “chop shops” that take apart, reassemble and sell bikes on streets and sidewalk as a way to address rampant bike theft in the city.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Board of Supervisors will consider allowing police to confiscate bikes and bike parts from chop shops if they’re on public property and have at least five products being sold.

The proposed legislation was authored by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, a former bike messenger who was appointed to the Board by Mayor Ed Lee in January.

Sheehy’s ordinance says police can only return bikes through proof of ownership and an impound fee payment. Bike owners who don’t operate chop shops and find their bike in police custody are exempt from the fee.  

Supporters of the legislation say it will help prevent bike theft and crack down on illegal sales. They also say it will help clean up sidewalks and help San Franciscans get back their stolen property.

Chop shops are concentrated in the Mission and Castro neighborhoods, often in front of the increasing number of tent encampments.

But homeless advocates say the proposal is unfair: someone operating a chop shop in a garage would not be penalized, and it assumes guilt for people without proof of ownership. The San Francisco Bike Coalition says it would only support legislation like this if it focused more on the buying and selling of stolen bikes.

Last week, the Land Use and Transportation Committee forwarded the proposal to the full Board, with only Supervisor Aaron Peskin opposing.


The city has targeted August 2018 for a significant reduction in bike thefts, but according to police records obtained by the San Francisco Examiner, that hasn’t happened yet.