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January 13, 2012 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Who Pinched My Ride? "Stolen bicycles have become a solvent in America’s underground economy, a currency in the world of drug addicts and petty thieves." Outside's Patrick Symmes tells his story of loss(es), frustration and the failures of modern technology.

The National Bike Registry '"work[s] with law enforcement to return stolen bikes to their rightful owners." For some bike locking tips, try Locking Your Bike, And Getting It Back

BONUS: Stolen Bike from Pee Wee's Big Adventure, composed by Danny Elfman.
posted by the man of twists and turns (59 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember growing up on the west coast of Canada in 80s and early 90s, and I had 5 bikes stolen thanks to crack and heroin addicts. Fast-forward to 2012, and we leave our bikes unlocked in front of our house, about 30 feet from a bus stop. I haven't had a wheel or seat stolen in 15 years.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:50 PM on January 13, 2012


"90 percent of bike thieves are drug addicts." That says it all.
posted by Melismata at 12:55 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Previously on MeFi: Hal Grades Your Locking
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:56 PM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just started bringing my bike all the way into my downtown office through the service elevator. I'll be damned if I'm losing another b-*TRAILS OFF INTO SPUTTERING RAGE*
posted by resurrexit at 1:05 PM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a cute and engaging personal essay, but this piece really left me wanting to see some more actual journalism. Where do the bikes mostly go? Why do so many police departments treat bike theft as a low-to-zero-enforcement priority? The article has a bunch of interesting anecdotes, but it seems to fall well short of justifying the "solvent in America’s underground economy" nut, which would have required some form of broader economic analysis.
posted by RogerB at 1:06 PM on January 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


Who Steal Bikes? (warning: QuickTime plugin), from bikeoff.org, an organization in the UK.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:13 PM on January 13, 2012


Why do so many police departments treat bike theft as a low-to-zero-enforcement priority?

I think the answer to that question, at least, is pretty self-explanatory. Theft, in general, is pretty low priority, unless you're talking grand theft or embezzlement or something. When people are shooting at each other in the streets, stolen bikes don't really even appear on the radar screen.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:16 PM on January 13, 2012


I agree with RogerB. There's a serious story to be told here, but this article only hints at it.
posted by Forktine at 1:16 PM on January 13, 2012


Those looking for answers about urban bike thefts could do worse than look into the story of Igor Kenk, "the world's most prolific bike thief," according to the Grauniad.
posted by docgonzo at 1:23 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


affixed the little black GPS tracker under the seat with epoxy

Mr. epersonae once had his bike seat stolen while we were at a river park. (Badass part of that: he biked about 5 miles home with no seat.)

Actually, I have two different stories of Mr. epersonae's badassery re bike theft.... He had a bike stolen off of our carport (unlocked); several months, maybe as much as a year later, he was driving somewhere with a friend and saw a guy riding it on the sidewalk. (How he was so certain, I'm not sure.) Pulled over, challenged the guy, who sputtered about having gotten it from a friend, and threw the bike in the back of the truck. When he brought it home, I looked up the serial number, since we still had the paperwork. And yes, it was his bike. Alas, it was totally trashed, and Mr e had gotten a replacement, so we gave it to the local build-a-bike group.

Kicker to that story: it was found again in a bust of a huge bike theft ring. Since the police report was still outstanding, we got a call, ended up having a nice chat with an officer. Don't know what its final disposition was.
posted by epersonae at 1:24 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I live in a nice part of Santa Monica, with pretty low crime all around, in a not heavily traveled area, but I left my girlfriend's bike locked to my truck bed (with a crappy cable lock, it was just to prevent theft of opportunity), parked 10' from my bedroom window, for less than 12 hours, and in the morning the lock was cut and the bike was gone.

People are pretty obviously trolling around, carrying bolt cutters and likely other equipment. But, based on my anecdote, really ONLY looking for bikes - I've left other stuff in my truck bed in that spot (though usually covered) many times before without issue.
posted by flaterik at 1:26 PM on January 13, 2012


Yeah, cable locks are only marginally more effective than a polite note. They should really be mandated to sell them with a big warning on the package, something to the effect of "THIS TAKES LIKE FIVE SECONDS TO CUT. DO NOT USE THIS AS YOUR PRIMARY LOCK."
posted by theodolite at 1:29 PM on January 13, 2012


My wife and I had a matching pair of bikes lifted from a U campus in 2006. We left them locked, did 20 minutes in the gym and came out to find them gone. Broad daylight.

We reported it, claimed it on our insurance, paid the deductible and ended up with replacements that we are still riding. Both of us are still pissed and every time I hear a bike theft story I wonder idly where my bike ended up.

We learned the hard way I guess. Shouldn't have trusted the locks in the first place on those bikes I guess. Our road bikes and trail bikes are never left unattended unless they are in our garage, and even then they're locked. The street bikes are left (begrudgingly) outside only when necessary, always locked, and usually parked next to a bike that's much nicer looking just in case.

My street bike was purchased in 1993, and I'm sure the only reason I still have it is because I never locked it outside overnight at college, even that time the elevator was broken and bringing it in meant lugging it up 9 flights of stairs.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:30 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


RE: cable locks - from what we heard from the officer responding to our report, the Kevlar cable locks slow thieves down by as much as 1 to 3 seconds over the time it takes to cut through a U lock. It doesn't matter what you lock with, they can generally break them open in under a minute.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:32 PM on January 13, 2012


"90 percent of bike thieves are drug addicts."

When I lived in Toronto a decade ago, seemingly 90 percent of bike thieves were Igor Kenk. (One of several warehouses police found after his arrest -- nearly 3000 stolen bikes turned up in Kenk's possession).

I once lost a bike from a Bloor Street bike post and late one night three months later I found what I would guess to be one of Kenk's little helpers making his way down the same stretch of Bloor, examining and testing the locks on each bike as he went. I had just unlocked my (replacement) bike when he got to where I was and was standing with it facing perpendicular to the sidewalk (i.e. obstructing most of the sidewalk).

I said, "I can't help but notice you are looking at all the locks along here."

He looked at me then quickly looked away and replied, "Yeah, I'm, uh, interested in buying a new, uh, lock and wanted to see what, uh, these bikes have."

I said, "You know, I had a bike stolen from right here a few weeks ago..."

He went to step around me. I sidestepped in the same direction to keep the bike in front of him. I leaned over him. He looked up at me with wide eyes -- eight inches taller, a hundred pounds heavier and clearly with a grudge against bike thieves.

"... so you should get a really good lock. Bike thieves are everywhere. Anyway, have a nice night!" I mounted and rode off, leaving him looking after me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:37 PM on January 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


> 90 percent of bike thieves are drug addicts

Yet another trend that I buck.
posted by goethean at 1:38 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I lived in a UK university town where bikes were the primary means of transport, and had 7 stolen within the space of a year - once, notably, from an underground room behind 3 locked doors. Amusingly, a lot of the stolen bikes were sold "second hand" by the thieves outside the local courthouse, and no-one raised an eyebrow if you lost the keys to your lock and had to take an angle-grinder to it in the middle of the street.
posted by emergent at 1:43 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember growing up on the west coast of Canada in 80s and early 90s, and I had 5 bikes stolen thanks to crack and heroin addicts. Fast-forward to 2012, and we leave our bikes unlocked in front of our house, about 30 feet from a bus stop. I haven't had a wheel or seat stolen in 15 years.

hmmm .... I'm happy for you, but just so we don't paint W.Coast Canada as a magical bike haven, I've had two stolen in the past 10 months. To be fair though, one of those was stolen when I was living just a block off East Hastings, and I went away for work for a month leaving it unlocked under a tarp in the front yard. No one to blame but myself on that one.
posted by mannequito at 1:45 PM on January 13, 2012


The author of this article purchased at least two obviously stolen bicycles from thieves in order to write the article. That'll show 'em!
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:45 PM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I once walked out of my apartment building in Toronto to find an industrious young lad kneeling next to some locked-up bikes, about to deploy a large bolt cutter.

"Oh hello," I said, and he quickly stood up and walked away. I suppose I could have called the cops, but it seemed like it would be pretty pointless.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:50 PM on January 13, 2012


The only bike I've ever had stolen was when I was in grad school. I'd had my bike for a couple of years, ridden it to campus nearly every day and all around town, and that morning I got all the way into work (at a campus building) before I realized that I'd left my keys at home; I'd just gotten married and had had my usual routine disrupted. I looked around, saw no one looking, left my bike in the rack, went inside and called home to ask my wife to bring my keys to work, and then went back outside to bring the bike in the back door until my wife showed up... and it was gone. I didn't report it because a) I was going to be moving to another town shortly, one that I thought wasn't particularly bike-friendly, and b) my bike was an undistinguished Schwinn (a piece of crap, frankly) that I hadn't recorded the serial number of and something told me that anyone who was quick and sharp-eyed enough to pick it out of the dozens of locked bikes around it in the few minutes that I'd left it unattended probably wasn't just going to go joy-riding around.

Since then, I don't leave my bike unlocked, ever, and I haven't lost another one, even though I've had my home and car broken into, more than once.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:53 PM on January 13, 2012


"90 percent of bike thieves are drug addicts."

I'm curious about the validity of that statement. I'm not discounting it, but the number seems high. Around these parts, it seems like a lot of bike thieves are bored teenagers.
posted by asnider at 2:16 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"90 percent of bike thieves are drug addicts."

I'd venture that's a little low for New Orleans.
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:34 PM on January 13, 2012


I was once walking home from the pub with a friend of mine, and we spied a guy trying to lift a (cable) locked bike up over a tree, except that the tree was at least 5 metres high, and forked, so there was no way the cable was going any higher than 2 metres. He was pretty clearly on lots of speed, and had walked past this bike and made stealing it his project for at least the last couple of hours.

We yelled over at the guy, and he shot up the tree like a squirrel, while keeping one hand on the bike, which was about a metre off the ground. I think he must have thought he was invisible.
posted by claudius at 2:34 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you know what? Some fucking asshole stood on my porch in the dark some time between 10pm and 6am and patiently unpicked the pinlock seat-securing thing and took it. We're down the street from a place where a lot of punk bike types congregate, and a connection said that there are unethical punk bike types (which is not to impugn all punk bike types by any means) who cannibalize bikes for parts, justifying it with "clearly no one rides that bike"....I surmise that some fucking asshole looked at my bike, which I ride every goddamn day, and figured that because he saw it in the same place at 10pm every night - because I am at home at that hour most nights - obviously I wasn't riding it.

I talked to my bike guy and he said to just keep the bike inside.

He also says that you can dramatically cut the risk of parts-theft by doing things like putting electrician's tape over fastenings, putting balled-up aluminum foil in screw heads and so on - anything that makes stealing things take time.

Fuck bike thieves. I would never advocate vigilante justice against homeless drug addicts, but self-righteous bike punks need a good working over.
posted by Frowner at 2:35 PM on January 13, 2012


Steal this.
posted by resurrexit at 2:36 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


>> 90 percent of bike thieves are drug addicts

>Yet another trend that I buck.
>posted by goethean

So are you a bike thief that's not a drug addict or are you a drug addict that's bad at categorical logic?
posted by RobotHero at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


Well, why did you do it? Are you some sort of jerk or something? It's *my* front wheel! What did you think, that I'd -- drive home and not notice it was stolen? What are you then? Some sort of *prick*? Some sort of idiot? Some sort of thief? What would you do with just my front wheel anyway? What good would just one wheel be? You human loser! Well, why didn't you buy your own wheel if you wanted one so badly. That's what I did.


posted by sourwookie at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Someone really needs to invent a good bike homing beacon. Maybe a small cylindrical cell phone - stick it down the seat tube into the frame and use a screwdriver to turn an expansion joint that will lock it in place. Insert a SIM card and tie into an existing account. Use the triangulation technology built into all cell phones to send back its coordinates when a special text message is received. Have it use the metal frame of the bike as an antenna.

I'm sure thieves would figure them out before too long, but the ones that got burned in the early days would be totally worth it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:56 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


For those who don't know what sourwookie is referencing: Bruce McCulloch's open letter to the guy who stole his bike wheel.
posted by asnider at 3:06 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]




Someone really needs to invent a good bike homing beacon. Maybe a small cylindrical cell phone - stick it down the seat tube into the frame and use a screwdriver to turn an expansion joint that will lock it in place.


How about a remotely detonated chunk of c-4 tucked under the saddle.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:07 PM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love riding a bike. And I hated both times as a kid that my bikes got stolen (the first time I actually didn't understand—"Wait, so someone just took it!?—A bike to a seven-year-old is like his personal X-Wing). I guess in the past I always figured kids took them to "ghost ride" 'em down hills or something or something stupid.

The worst thing though, perhaps because it is actually seen, is nowadays when I walk by a locked-up bicycle that some idiot has just stomped/bent the wheels on. Someone with so much anger in them that they have to smash someone else's transportation.

I find it even sadder when you walk past one of these and you can tell it's been there for a while. The chain is off and all rusted, the frame is the only thing left—locked to a pole, looking like the skeleton of some long-ago captured pirate, meant to dissuade others.

And then I think "Some person came out of work or whatever, saw their bike was smashed and didn't have it in them to unlock it and carry it home like their deceased pet." And there the bike lays until spring, when I assume some city employee comes along with a bolt-cutter, tosses the skeleton into the back of a truck bed with all of the others.

posted by blueberry at 3:10 PM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


blueberry, related
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:13 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll admit that when my bike was stolen, it was unlocked. But I'll give the thief credit for this: In the 60 seconds (or less) that it was unattended while I walked inside my workplace to retrieve my bag, it wouldn't have even occurred to me to steal a bike in the first place, much less take action.

I won't even take my eye off it anymore when I'm not sitting on it, unless it's locked.
posted by hafehd at 3:13 PM on January 13, 2012


After my bike was stolen in DC half a decade ago, a campus police friend of mine told me that on the rare occasion they *do* catch bike thieves, the primary charge is almost never bike theft; it's drug possession/paraphernalia.
posted by The White Hat at 3:14 PM on January 13, 2012


Why do so many police departments treat bike theft as a low-to-zero-enforcement priority?

I think the answer to that question, at least, is pretty self-explanatory. Theft, in general, is pretty low priority, unless you're talking grand theft or embezzlement or something. When people are shooting at each other in the streets, stolen bikes don't really even appear on the radar screen.


I read recently (maybe on MeFi?) that the "secret" to New York City drastically reducing their horrible problem with serious crimes in the late '70s was that they started enforcing minor offenses.

This doesn't mean locking people up for minor drug offenses, but rather hunting down and prosecuting for bike theft, car stereo theft, graffiti, shoplifting, and muggings -- non-victimless crimes that affect real, innocent people everyday. It makes sense to me. Right now we teach people that the only way they'll face consequences is if they kill someone.

It didn't solve the crime problem (obviously) but the drop in serious crimes was precipitous.

(Meanwhile, I couldn't even get Vegas police to come to my house when my car was broken into and the thief left fingerprints EVERYWHERE.)
posted by coolguymichael at 3:18 PM on January 13, 2012


I read recently (maybe on MeFi?) that the "secret" to New York City drastically reducing their horrible problem with serious crimes in the late '70s was that they started enforcing minor offenses.

I think that's known as the 'broken windows' theory of policing.

In the last place I lived, bicycling was a major mode of transportation for many of the residents. The cops started stopping/citing for bike violations (no reflectors, on the sidewalk, running reds) and many times they found the people breaking the laws on the bikes had warrants out, and in one incident, was carrying a lot of jewelry that had been stolen from a pawn shop the day before.

People who break big laws break little laws.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:29 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never had my bike stolen, but one time in college someone stole a wheel nut off my bike (the rear wheel, luckily). That was a weird feeling.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:30 PM on January 13, 2012


I used to live in Berkeley, where I once had the wheels of my bike stolen. So I drag my frame to the police station, where a policewoman has me fill out a report. Being an inquisitive person, I ask her, "Where do all these stolen bikes go?" The conversation quickly takes a 180-degree turn, and she asks me, "Did you take advanced placement history in high school?" At first, I spluttered and asked what the hell this had to with my bike being stolen, but she very sternly insisted that I answer the question. So I tell her that I had indeed taking AP history in high school. In response, she asks me if I've heard of the rum-slaves-molasses triangle. I'm more confused than anything, but eventually I end up doing a short oral explanation of the rum/slave/molasses triangle. So after that I ask, what does that have to do with stolen bicycles? She replies, "The rum is drugs. The molasses are stolen bicycles, and the slaves are illegal immigrants."

I was so weirded out by my experience at the police station that I told one of my grad school classmates about it later. After listening to the whole story, he said, "Dude, you`re probably overthinking it. Your bike is probably at the Ashby flea market right now."
posted by jonp72 at 3:31 PM on January 13, 2012 [27 favorites]


I had a bike in one of the poorest parts of Boston, Dorchester, while growing up.

You did NOT steal a bike from either of my neighborhoods (Fields Corner, then Savin Hill). Because if you were caught stealing a bike, a large number of people would appear, seemingly out of nowhere, and #%$^@#^% the @#%$!@$% out of you.
posted by andreaazure at 3:35 PM on January 13, 2012


There's a guy at work who says one day he's going to build a reverse steering, reverse pedalling bike just to watch people try and leave the scene. He's the sort that might do it, too - I'm quite looking forward to it.
posted by cromagnon at 3:38 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bike Thief vs Street Justice
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about a remotely detonated chunk of c-4 tucked under the saddle.
posted by Stagger Lee


Double edged razors stuck in the seat cushion...
posted by 445supermag at 4:18 PM on January 13, 2012


Get a cheap bike but flashy looking bike, unhook both of the brake cables, and leave it unlocked in a public place where the most likely direction to take it immediately goes down a steep hill.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:12 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


My roommates stole a bike once. Well, they kind of stole it.

The bike had been sitting locked in the same place for over a year, untouched, locked to a bike rack right out in the open in the middle of campus, locked by the front wheel only. Well, one of my roommates decided it deserved a good home. He wrote up a note stating, cheerfully, that he thought the bike had been abandoned and needed a bit of love. He weatherproofed his note with packing tape and taped it securely to the spokes of the front wheel.

A couple of weeks passed and the bike was still sitting there untouched, so my roommate went out to "liberate" the bike. Somehow he talked my shyer, more law abiding roommate into coming with him. Roommate two spent much of the afternoon in a cold sweat. In broad daylight, in the early afternoon, roommate one popped the front tire off the bike and started rolling the frame and rear wheel home.

As they casually strolled along the sidewalk, a cop car pulled up. The policeman asked them what they were doing with the bike, and roommate one cheerfully launched into his long story about the bike's abandonment, the note he'd left, and his belief that bikes were made to be ridden. Roommate two was wondering what his sentence would be for a first offense. The officer thought roommate one was mad, of course, but his story checked out. The note R1 had left on the wheel helpfully gave his full name and accurate contact information -- not typical behaviour in a thief. Now that he was off the hook, R1 asked the officer if he could keep the bike. No, no he could not keep the bike. (a calm response said with an almost straight face - sometimes the professionalism of good cops amazes me). The bike was impounded, but at least my roommates didn't get arrested.

I spent a couple more years at that university and that lonely wheel never left its rack. I'd wander past it from time to time, watching the note yellow as the seasons changed.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:09 PM on January 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


I've wired a stun gun up to my bike, activated by a switch embedded in the seat.
posted by orme at 6:09 PM on January 13, 2012


I do wish for good journalism on the bike theft issue. Where do the really really nice road bikes (3K and up) end up? Do the people who steal them know what they have? Do teh people who end up with them know they are hot?
posted by cccorlew at 6:45 PM on January 13, 2012


"Dude, you`re probably overthinking it. Your bike is probably at the Ashby flea market right now."

...Or a certain bike shop on Telegraph.
posted by hoyland at 6:49 PM on January 13, 2012


Proof that I'm a complete failure as a capitalist, but at least potentially redeemable as a human being:

While sitting on my front steps taking my bike apart and cleaning it, some guy in a big van comes up to me and asks if I know anybody who can fix up a bunch of bikes quickly.

A little confused and caught unawares, I just answer "no, not really" and he drives off. It took me a while to realize why you'd need a van full of bikes fixed in a hurry.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 7:08 PM on January 13, 2012


Every bike weighs 50lbs!
If you have a 15lb wonder bike you need a 35lb lock.
If you have 50lb crap bike you don't need a lock.
Ergo, Every bike weighs 50lbs!
posted by Pecantree at 8:07 PM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not just the Ashby flea market but Oakland as well. Got a lifetime supply of lip balm from there while going out to ransom my bike. Never got my bike, but me and my co-workers had very moist, soft lips as a result.
posted by jadepearl at 8:15 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had my bike stolen once while I left it parked without a lock a few blocks from my house. I went home, got a basball bat, and trolled aorund my neighborhood until I saw someone riding it and took it back. Some of the shitheads' friends stood on a nearby porch and shook thier do-ragged heads as if to say "look at that pitiful fool". But I noticed they kept thier asses put.

Don't fucking touch my bike.
posted by clarknova at 9:15 PM on January 13, 2012


They used to hang horse thieves. Anyone who has ever had a bike stolen knows why.
posted by bradbane at 10:28 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


They used to hang horse thieves. Anyone who has ever had a bike stolen knows why.

And people keep telling me about the health benefits of cycling. Clearly mental health isn't one of them.
posted by rodgerd at 11:38 PM on January 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


One Saturday my roommate rode her bike off to work and came back a few minutes later to grab something she had forgotten. She put her bike unlocked on the porch, right next to our open front door, ran past me in the kitchen, into her room, grabbed what she had forgotten...and went back onto the porch to find her bike gone. Thirty seconds at most was that bike unlocked and unattended, it was amazing.
posted by cmonkey at 11:59 PM on January 13, 2012


I found that essay kind of shocking. I had no idea bicycle theft was quite so common in some places. Here, I know one guy who buys $1500 bikes, and they all get stolen. Everyone else I know buys normal sorts of bicycles, usually second hand, and I don't know anyone's that's been stolen ever.

My own bicycles have never been worth more than $100 until recently, and I've always locked them with a D-lock. So I guess thieves are going to spend their effort on the better or more insecurely locked bicycle next to mine in the rack instead.

I now have a $400 bike, and I'm a bit paranoid about it, but I lock it with the D-lock and with the wheel lock, and it's still 10 years old so hopefully doesn't stand out next to other bicycles. And I park it in the bike cage at work (locked anyway), and in my garage at home.

When I lived in Denmark, it seemed that everyone just locked bicycles with the wheel lock only, and they got stolen a lot. But I didn't know anyone who spent more than about $20 on a bike (at police auctions), so even if they got stolen regularly, no one really cared.
posted by lollusc at 12:04 AM on January 14, 2012


Also, I have a suggestion - if you ever see someone cutting a lock, dissembling a locked bike, nabbing a wheel or a seatpost or doing anything else obviously bike-thief-y, take their picture with your cell phone (do it surreptitiously if there's nobody around and you don't want to risk a confrontation). They're not so scared of someone calling the cops (they'll be gone long before they arrive if the cops bother to come at all) but the picture can be taken instantly.

Furthermore, a lot of people either half-believe the cover story (oh, I lost my key....) and don't want to bother the cops if it's true. Taking a picture and forwarding it on has the advantage that if no stolen bike is reported, you won't waste police time nor hassle an innocent person. Although if I found someone cutting a lock I'd probably take the picture and then call the cops anyway...
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:46 AM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure is nice to have a Hubway subscription.

(It's the Boston bikeshare.)

The bikes are distinctive, and some of the internal components are under patent. So the whole world knows there is only one entity that owns bikes of that make: Alta Bikeshare of Montreal. (They also have the contract for DC and NYC, and their competitor, B-Cycle, uses a different looking model, which is also unique to the owner.)

So no resale value except for scrap metal.

And best of all, if one of the 800 bikes deployed in Boston is stolen, I have 799 others to ride. But when my own bike is stolen, my day is ruined.
posted by ocschwar at 1:16 PM on January 14, 2012


Amsterdam welcomes y'all to its world. I'm not sure actually how rampant bike theft still is, but it was awful in the seventies and eighties. What has helped a lot in stopping petty crime here has been good support for drug addicts (cleanup programmes, methadon, even city sponsored heroin/crack for end of life/incorrigable users) meaning there are less addicts and they need to steal less to feed their habits. Still, I put my bike inside when I'm at home and tend to lock it in the fully automated underground lockup at the ferry when I'm biking to work.

Apart from that, all you can do is make sure you have at least two different locks, always chain your bike to something immovable and make sure it's more hassle to steal yours than the bike next to yours.

My wife once left her bike unlocked by accident outside one evening and it was promptly stolen in the morning, yet luckily when I got off the bus some streets over coming back from work that very same night I saw a bike that looked like hers. I called her, she came over and confirmed it was her bike and we only had to bring it to the nearest bikeshop to get the lock cut so she could use it again. Very lucky there, because she loved Bill the Pony. Being not as tall as all these huge Dutch women it was the only bike she was ever comfortable on and it was actually a twelve year old girl's bike...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:45 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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