Is there something about unattended bicycles that inspires security guards to cut their locks and carry them off, whether they're in the way or not?
Earlier this month it happened to a couple who chained their bikes to a fence at Oriole Park when they couldn't find a bike rack. Then Sunday it happened to a Towson man who chained his 18-speed mountain bike to a rail in the new Towsontown Center garage while he went into the mall for a haircut.
When John Palumbi came out, "there was no trace, no tag, no card, nothing." His type of bike is attractive to thieves, he said, so his first thought was that it had been stolen. But the supervisor in the security office told him his bike had been confiscated for being parked illegally.
"There was no sign or anything to indicate that it was illegal to park a bike there," Mr. Palumbi said. After he described his bicycle, it was returned. But when he inquired about reimbursement for the severed lock, he was told to check back.
Mr. Palumbi, 28, a Labor Department economist, said he arrived at the mall at the 11 a.m. Sunday opening time, when traffic was sparse, and asked a maintenance man about a bike rack. The man replied that he knew of none, Mr. Palumbi said, "so I parked it in the main garage, chained to a rail against the wall, well out of the way of traffic and pedestrians."
Yesterday, Chris Schardt, Towsontown Center's general manager, said that there are four bicycle racks around the mall. As for bicycles parked elsewhere, he said, "We typically leave them alone when they are chained away from the racks unless they create a danger."
Bicycles chained to stair rails or to safety bollards where they might be hit by cars are removed, he said.
Whoever seized Mr. Palumbi's bicycle is probably in for a chewing out.
"I can't justify it if the bike was in a non-hazardous place," Mr. Schardt said. "It was an overzealous individual."
Mr. Schardt said that Mr. Palumbi will be reimbursed.
"I'm happy about that," Mr. Palumbi said.