Bike challenge, Day 4: Stealing
The most unnerving thing about commuting by bike is making sure the darn thing doesn’t get stolen.
It’s a weird feeling. When I park my car I never worry that it won’t be there when I get back. I don’t peer out windows to make sure it’s still there. I don’t have elaborate locking systems that take upwards of 10 minutes to deter thieves. I just press a button and walk away.
It’s not so easy with a bike. My friend Lyn Bouton, who loaned me her bike, has two locks. Each wheel is locked to the frame, and to a solid structure. She warned me not to lock to a stop sign — thieves with pickup trucks can lift the bike up and over the sign.
She also warned me to take off the gizmos on her bike — a light, an odometer — every time I leave the bike.
“People will try to steal them,” she said.
She’s right to be worried: city police say they auction off hundreds of stolen bikes every year because they can’t find the owners. (They advise people to register their bike’s serial number so they can return it. Lyn’s bike is registered.)
I’ve faithfully locked both wheels at every stop. I’m a believer: the last time I depended on a bike for transportation, as a freshman in college, my front wheel was stolen about two weeks into the first semester.
My parents got me a new wheel that summer and I dragged my bike back to school with me, but then someone stole my helmet (and, worse, an entire backpack full of much more valuable items).
I gave up and got a car. My bike dissolved into rust.
I’ve now met many bike owners who simply carry their bikes with them everywhere, rather than risk locking them up. The man who challenged me to try getting around town on a bicycle, city Zoning Officer Steve Strichman, keeps his bike in his office.
He told me not to bother locking both wheels even though the unlocked wheel could be stolen.
“They could, but how good of a bike is it?” he asked.
Then he saw the bike Lyn had loaned me. He helped me lock it up thoroughly.
Kathleen Moore is a reporter for The Daily Gazette. Reach her by email to firstname.lastname@example.org