Friday, August 15, 2008

[Hannah]: Bike Thieves

There are some seriously ninja bike thieves in my new town. Everyone uses bikes to get around, there are all kinds of people coming in and out all the time, it's a college town... prime bike stealing territory. Some stories I heard within my first week here:

1) My friend Tasha, who lived in a studio apartment in a row of apartments set well back from the street, with everyone using the same entrance, had her bike stolen off her balcony. she was on the second floor and had locked a wheel of her bike to the balcony. The thieves vaulted up to the balcony, stole the bike, and left the wheel attached to her railing.

2) A guy in the bike store, with a rueful expression, said he'd taken his nice bike on the bus. He'd left the bike in the designated bike racks at the front of the bus and sat down in the middle of the bus. A guy getting off the front of the bus just took his bike on the way out. THe bus driver had called out half-heartedly, "is that your bike?" but by that time it was already too late.

The local bike store hands out a two-page instruction sheet on how to not get your bike stolen. To summarize:

1) If you have a nice bike, it will get stolen.

2) If you have a lousy bike, and go to a lot of trouble, your bike will probably not get stolen. Better get a lousy bike. If you have a nice bike, try to make it look lousy. Better yet - get a bike so lousy you secretly HOPE it will get stolen.

3) Don't get a chain lock. Bike thieves can saw through them - and will, in broad daylight, do so.

4) Don't lock just your frame to the stand. Thieves will saw through the frame and take the bike.

5) Don't just lock the front wheel. Thieves will take the whole bike and leave the front wheel.

6) Don't just lock the front wheel and the frame. Thieves can either saw through the frame or take your back wheel in a matter of seconds. While you are in class, or in the few seconds you are in a store not looking at it.

7) What CAN you do? You should always remove the front wheel, and lock the front wheel and the back wheel THROUGH the frame, around the post. Bike thieves, of course, CAN saw through both wheels if they are determined, but this would be more trouble for them than just stealing the bike of the naive freshman from the suburbs, who only locked up his frame. Plus, your bike looks lousy, so why would they bother.

Lockup strategy 7) is what I"m working with right now. It's a bit tiresome. At the beginning of the week it took me about 15 minutes to do it, now it takes me only about 3. (Commuters of any kind understand that keeping track of this exact number of minutes is of prime importance). But I still have to concentrate to get it right. I'm convinced that one of these days, I'm going to lock the wheels to the rack and forget to put them through the frame, thus leaving my frame entirely available to be walked away with. But in any case, all of us greenhorns are in such a state of paranoia that we're basically convinced a bike thief could take our bikes while we're straddling them at a stop sign. In which case, it's recommended that you shout after the bike thief "It's a good thing you took that bike! I really hated it!"


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