In my area we have those bikeshare bikes. I come across broken ones all the time. I have retrieved a few from lakes,creeks and fields and put them in a concentrated location and reported them to the company. After over a month, the company has not picked them up.

One of these bikes has had the lock and other parts cut off. It is impossible to purchase a ride on it. It has obviously been stolen at one point. It is in pretty bad shape but still rideable.

If I rode this bike on day 1, would it have been a crime? If I ride it after a month of not being picked up, is it a crime?

USA. Texas.

  • If this program is like most bikeshare bikes, you would know who owns the property even if it isn't functioning, and this seems to be the case here.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 2:56

2 Answers 2


That's tricky. I suppose the real question is "at what point can the company not sue me anymore if they catch me riding the bicycle, and they obviously can sue you after any amount of time. The law may be on your side, but the judge may not, and even if you win in court, it costs time and money.

And you might very well be sued. Because the value of the bicycle may be zero (if you consider repairs etc. until it is Ok to rent out again), but you riding it in public will give certain people ideas that they could steal a bike instead of renting it, and the company will want to avoid that impression.


If you ride the bike, it's not theft, but if you take the bike away forever, it would be theft (until it is officially and legally abandoned, and you claim possession). Intention to permanently deprive is an essential part of theft. If it were a motor vehicle, unauthorized use would be a crime, but using somebody's stuff without permission is not a crime (it does not meet the requirements for criminal trespass, which is limited to land or structures). You could be sued for damages, but the owner would have to show that you caused them some damage such as lost revenue.

You might at some point claim the bike as your property if the bike has been abandoned, but unless the company affirmatively abandons it (basically, gives it to you), you cannot exploit the law pertaining to presumption of abandonment (Texas Property Code Sec. 72.101) – the waiting period is 3 years. Even then, one of the requirements is that the "existence and location of the owner of the property is unknown to the holder of the property" (which is not the case, at least for now).

  • 1
    "f it were a motor vehicle, unauthorized use would be a crime, but using somebody's stuff without permission is not a crime." I am very skeptical of this analysis. In most places using someone's rental property without permission with an intent to do so temporarily is still a crime of some kind, and it is certainly, at a minimum, a tort.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 2:58
  • If you can find the Texas statute, that would be enlightening.
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 4:30
  • Where are you getting the permanency requirement for theft?
    – bdb484
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 8:42

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