Stadium guards impound 2 bikes chained to fence


When Bonnie Smelkinson asked the security guards at Oriole Park why they were carting away her bicycle, they told her it was illegally parked.

The guards, who work for the Maryland Stadium Authority, had cut the lock from Ms. Smelkinson's bike, which was chained to a wrought-iron fence outside the stadium's Russell Street entrance. Her boyfriend's bike was locked to hers. Both were hauled to the security office on a recent Sunday afternoon.

"I was furious," recalls Ms. Smelkinson, 22, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. "They said the bikes were illegally parked, that it was Stadium Authority property and we could pick them up after the game. So we did, because we didn't have a choice."

"Of all the petty, trivial things, to kidnap a bike . . . it seemed an unreasonable thing to do," says Andy Wald, Ms. Smelkinson's boyfriend.

The Charles Village couple say they asked several ushers and police officers about a bike rack when they arrived at the Camden Yards ballpark for the May 3 White Sox-Oriole game. "The policemen said to ask the ushers and the ushers said to ask the policemen. And nobody knew," Ms. Smelkinson recalls.

There is a bike rack at the stadium -- one with room for 20 bicycles -- and it is on the south side of Camden Station to the east of the warehouse. The fence to which the Charles Village couple locked their bikes is owned by the Stadium Authority and is considered private property, says Herbert J. Belgrad, head of the Stadium Authority. People don't have unlimited access to Stadium Authority property, he explains.

Ms. Smelkinson and Mr. Wald say they only coincidentally learned that their bikes were being impounded. It was the third inning and Ms. Smelkinson had left her seat to meet her mother at the Russell Street entrance, near the "will call" box.

She sat about 20 yards from the fence where she and Mr. Wald had earlier locked their bikes. The fence is on a grassy strip that parallels Russell Street and separates a service road from the stadium grounds.

While waiting for her mother, Ms. Smelkinson noticed two security guards carrying her red mountain bike and Mr. Wald's brown 10-speed.

After the game, Ms. Smelkinson and Mr. Wald went to claim their bikes. They asked to talk with the head of security. They wanted to know if they would be reimbursed for the bike lock. They were told, "No."

"We asked him for a reason. He said he didn't have to give us a reason," recalls Ms. Smelkinson. "He said our bikes were on their property."

Ms. Smelkinson says she countered: "They weren't impeding traffic and there was no sign on the fence that it was stadium property. The guy just said it was not [his] problem."

Ms. Smelkinson and Mr. Wald did learn where the bike rack is.

"It's only a 20-capacity bike rack," says Mr. Wald, a graduate student at Hopkins. "What if it's filled?"

Fans who ride their bikes to the stadium also should think twice about locking their bicycles to a utility pole or nearby parking meter: It's against state law to do so if the bike impedes traffic or the pole is in a bus or taxi zone or within 25 feet of an intersection.

The law also says this:

"Any bicycle may be secured to a parking meter without payment of the usual fees if the bicycle is entirely removed from the bed of the street normally used for vehicular parking."

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