October 31, 2013

Interview with a Bike Thief

My Cannondale had Avid BB7s, too. Was it the 
snazzy disc brakes that caught the thief's fancy?
This post was prompted by questions my boyfriend raised after reading "'By failing to prepare, you're preparing to fail.'" He expressed doubts about the deterrent effect a registration sticker would have on a "harder core criminal" and wondered whether the presence of a sticker wouldn't merely encourage a thief to repaint the bike or obliterate the serial number somehow. 

Faced with these questions, I realized how little insight I had into the mind of a bike thief, how ill-equipped I therefore am to anticipate a would-be thief's reaction to, say, my "Death to bike thieves" sticker. Unable to arrange to personally pick the brain of a bike thief (if any of you are reading this and are willing to grant an interview—we can keep it anonymous—avail yourself of the "Write to BTB" gadget in the right sidebar), I instead read every "interview with a bike thief" I could find. I learned a thing or two.
  1. How a bike thief locks a bike: If anyone knows how to secure a bike, it ought to be a bike thief, right? So how does a bike thief—currently active or reformed, I don't care—lock a bike? Well, here's what Omar Aziz does. (Omar is a onetime crack addict and bike thief who spoke to Guardian blogger Frederika Whitehead.) He uses two thick chains, through both wheels and the frame. Such chains can be cut, but it takes time and equipment thieves may not have.
  2. Never say "I'll come back for it later": Back during his thieving days, if Omar Aziz wanted a bike that was locked on a street too busy for him to be comfortable stealing it when he spotted it, he would puncture the tire to increase the chances of the bike's owner leaving it there longer—maybe even overnight. He told Whitehead: "Someone, if they find their tyre punctured they should take their bike with them, right at that minute because someone has done it on purpose to come and take it after."
  3. The Big Apple Is in a Class by Itself: Maybe everyone but me knew this already, but I read in this rather odd one-pager that Kryptonite lock warranties are void in New York City. (I will verify this claim and give the lowdown on lock warranties more generally in a future post.)
  4. Yes, David, There Is a Threat from Freezing: This one's for you commenter David. As The Dependent Magazine of Vancouver reports (in what is probably the best instance of the interview-with-a-bike-thief genre I came across): "Beyond bolt cutters and cordless grinders, thieves employ a number of techniques to relieve people of their beloved bicycles. Butane canisters are sprayed into cheap, aluminum locking mechanisms, freezing the components so they can be smashed with a hammer." 
    (I also learned from "Ryan," the thief who informed the Dependent piece, that (1) "nothing" is safe when a thief is equipped with a $200 cordless grinder and (2) "good disc brakes" rank high on the list of attractive components.)
  5. There's an Arms Race On: Want an uplifting story of a onetime bike thief who "turned his back on crime after completing a bicycle mechanic course"? Click here. What I got from Shaddouh's tale of redemption is confirmation that those keen to steal bikes pay close attention to what those keen to hold onto them are up to. As Shaddouh told The Docklands & East London Advertiser: "When we had a bit of extra money we would buy a really expensive lock to take apart and research how we could break it for future jobs." I guess that means the current crop of bike thieves is hard at work figuring out how to best tackle the TiGr...

October 28, 2013

Twelve Years a Jailbird

Thanks to my friend Karen for bringing to my attention last week the stiff prison sentences her home county of Arlington, VA is meting out to bike thieves these days.

Here's the case that made news: A 42-year-old named Michael Cullen pled guilty to eight counts of grand larceny (as we saw in "You F***ing Felon," Virginia has the lowest "felony threshold"—as defined in that post—in the country) with the intent to sell and one count of possession of burglarious (I'm sure I have never typed that word before) tools. For his involvement in multiple bicycle thefts, Cullen was sentenced on October 18, 2013 to 12 years in jail with four years suspended provided the victims receive full restitution.

Sparse on details of his particular crimes, the cookie-cutter news stories of Cullen's sentencing all cite his arrest and conviction as part of Arlington County's crackdown on bicycle theft. Spurred by the revelation that bike theft is at an all-time high in the county, the police department's burglary/larceny unit has stepped into high gear, with increased surveillance and saturation patrols (these are what they sound like). A list of arrests attests to the "positive results" law enforcement has seen thanks to these measures.

I was heartened to hear that thieves are being apprehended, but the rundown also reminded me that bikes really aren't safe much of anywhere, not in parking garages or even secured (supposedly) bike cages in apartment buildings. Confirmation that I'm not crazy for ceding precious floorspace in my probably <400 square foot studio to my Surly. This way you've gotta break and enter to get at it, and I bet that's a felony anywhere.

October 25, 2013

Hard, Strong, & Tough: Choose Two?

I don't know enough materials science to be sure that this is one of these meme-y "choose two" situations, but I got the impression from a Popular Science story that if you're manufacturing a bike lock—or anything, for that matter—you can't contrive for it to be hard, strong, and tough. (At least not in the technical sense. For those of you who don't have the relevant definitions committed to memory, I've included them below, courtesy of "the industry leader in manufacturing training," Tooling U.) 

Technical Definitions (source)

compressive strengtha material's ability to resist a squeezing force
shear strengtha material's ability to resist forces that attempt to cause the internal structure of the material to slide against itself
tensile strengtha material's ability to resist forces that attempt to pull it apart
hardnessa material's ability to resist penetration, indentation, or scratching; hard materials tend to be very wear resistant
toughnessthe measure of a material's ability to absorb mechanical forces before it breaks; impact toughness is a particular category of toughness
impact toughnessthe amount of energy that a material can absorb from a sudden, sharp blow before it breaks or fractures

Popular Science only introduced the trio of macho adjectives hard, strong, and tough, though, as prelude to what PS writer Theodore Gray terms a "fatal flaw" of nearly all materials: They become less flexible when very cold.

Cooling a tough-looking (informal usage, that) lock to –13°F with compressed difluoroethane, for instance, leaves it vulnerable to attack by a hammer:

Don't think bike thieves employ to such tactics? I've been tracking down and reading interviews with reformed bike thieves, and my research indicates...well, I'll save that for another post.

October 22, 2013

Make Sure Your Lock Job's an A

I suspect that Hal Ruzal of New York City's Bicycle Habitat would have little sympathy for the owner of the plundered Schwinn I photographed while in the Big Apple for a conference in August. The dreadlocked Ruzal has made a name for himself roaming the streets of Soho grading how well—or poorly—cyclists have secured their rides.

Now I'm no Hal—the 60-year-old has been in the biz for decades—but I'd give the Schwinn...a D? I mean, that looks to be what Hal would call a "proper lock" around the frame and front wheel, but obviously the rear wheel was left vulnerable to theft and the seat also appears to be readily swipe-able.

But why read my amateur attempts at lock-up assessment when you can watch Hal's? Thanks to Clarence Eckerson, Jr. of Streetfilms, there are three short videos available of Hal in action. I've embedded the first of these below. 

A couple fun facts about Hal before you watch, though:
  • At least as of 1996, Hal had had only one bike stolen. He was 18 and it was taken from outside his dad's candy store on Wall Street.
  • The man keeps his bikes locked in his apartment.

Like what you saw? Watch parts II and III.

P.S. While the jury's still out on whether Spice-Girl-turned-fashion-designer Victoria Beckham actually bikes around New York, the lock job she documented on Instagram in September earns an indisputable F.

October 20, 2013

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail"

a.k.a. Bike Registry Sunday installment #1

My BicycleSPACE Surly's got a new sticker on it as of five minutes ago. This one identifies it as being registered with BikeRegistry.com. I find the site's claim that it offers the "highest probability of recovery in the industry" if not dubious at least unsubstantiated, but the registration process is easy—and free. Both points in its favor. (The decal kit will run you $0.99 plus $0.44 shipping, but that's an add-on. See these detailed installation instructions to get an idea what that $1.43 will buy you.

My only complaint is that the frame size drop-down includes no "medium" option (which is what I wanted for my stolen Cannondale) and that I had to scale down my photographs to avoid exceeding the 100KB size limit.

Minor beefs, though. I like the bike fact sheet BikeRegistry.com provides, right down to the Benjamin Franklin quote at the bottom (which I stole for the title of this post). And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go record the manufacturer and model of my rear derailleur.

October 18, 2013

"And I'm just like [facepalm] oh my God"

A few times recently—when, for instance, my boyfriend and I were debating whether to stow my Surly in his car or leave it locked on his roof rack while we hit up a pool party in Georgetown—I've threatened to "go postal" if I had a second bike stolen. (We went with the in-the-car option.)

But apparently Atticus Seng of Fresno, California has both worse luck and more equanimity than I: Though the 9-year-old has had two bikes stolen in as many months, his message to the culprits concerns their morality more than his loss: "I'd just say, like, 'That was not good of you and you should not steal anymore.'"

Watch KFSN-TV's coverage of the story to see Atticus touchingly mourn his red and silver Trek 820. Stealing from a child, bike thieves? Seriously?  

October 16, 2013

It's Registration Time. Do You Know Where Your Serial Number Is?

You already know some of the facts you'll need at your fingertips when registering your bike. Like the brand, or what color the frame is. (And don't bother going all Pantone or Crayola on this; one drop-down I saw lumped silver and gray together, and all required my "army green" Surly Ogre to lose the modifier.) 

But do you know the model name of your trusty steed? The year? The date of purchase? What about frame size? (I used this reference to convert the "Medium" of my stolen Cannondale to 18" for a registry that only listed numeric sizes.) Depending on your level of bike savvy, figuring out even such might-be-easy-for-others details as wheel diameter and number of gears could call for some investigating. 

So, to gather the information required to register your ride (different registries ask for different details; what follows is a pretty thorough list), you'll probably need access to both your bike and, if applicable/available, your sales receipt. Either record the following facts or store them in your computer-like brain:
  • manufacturer
  • date of purchase
  • frame color
  • wheel diameter
  • model
  • place of purchase
  • frame size
  • handlebar type
  • model year
  • purchase price
  • frame material
  • number of gears 

and, of course, the all-important SERIAL NUMBER.

Now I naively thought that locating a serial number was an easy matter of flipping a bike over and reading the thing off the underside of the bottom bracket. Little did I know that manufacturers inscribe identifying digits in all sorts of crazy places or that carbon fiber can't have serial numbers stamped into it. (I had never heard of most of the brands on that list from the International Association of Property and Evidence. Rollfast? Hercules? Biblefield??)

Could you, like me, use a serial number refresher? Let Josh from Toronto bring you up to speed:

October 14, 2013

Blessed Be the Bikes

I'm working on a post about bike registries, but in the meantime... I'd heard about the Blessing of the Animals, but the Blessing of the Bicycles? This annual event was news to me.

The Blessing of the Bikes at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City

According to Wikipedia, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City has been holding mass blessings of bicycles since 1999. Riders of all ages and faiths are encouraged to don their cycling clothes and bring their bikes into the cathedral, where a priest prays, sprinkles the two-wheelers with holy water, and presides over a moment of silence in remembrance of cyclists killed in the past year.

Similar events occur in cities from Los Angles to Pittsburgh to Melbourne, Australia. (Blessings are typically held during the spring or early summer, so you've got time to start one in your town.)

I couldn't help but notice, of course, that the "Blessing of the Bicycles" makes mention of bike theft! (More God than I'm comfortable with perhaps, but good stuff otherwise!)

Present in a world groaning under the excesses of consumption, we acknowledge the inherent goodness of non-motorized human powered transportation and give thanks for the simple beauty of the bicycle. God of life, hear our prayer. 
Present in a community filled with children, we pray for those learning to ride. Keep them smart, safe, and visible on their neighborhood roads. God of life, hear our prayer. 
Present in a community filled with strife, we pray for the victims of road rage and bike theft. And we ask for the strength to forgive mean people. God of life, hear our prayer. 
Present in a world of work, we pray for those who build, repair, and clean our bikes and those who rely on bicycles to earn their living. Bless those who choose to not drive to work and those for whom driving isn't even an option. God of life, hear our prayer. 
Present in a community of beautiful diversity, we ask your protection and blessing on all who ride: pedi-cabbies, weekend warriors, athletes, homeless folks, students, children, eco-warriors, bike co-op anarchists, messengers, and all the others who take to the [insert town name here] streets, bike paths, parks, and mountains. Keep us safe as we ride. God of life, hear our prayer. 
We now observe a moment of silence for all who have died while riding...

October 12, 2013

"Take my bike and I'm fanatical about it"

This post is, first and foremost, a follow-up to "Craigslist: The Black Hole of Bicycles." It brings you the story of Portlander Jake Gillum tracking fellow Portlander Craig Eric Ackerman to Seattle, where Craig was trying to sell—using, appropriately, Craigslist—Jake's $2500 carbon fiber Fuji.

There are echoes here of other posts, too, though. We meet another pretty blonde, for instance, who, despite her good and innocent looks, is involved in bike theft. (See "To Confront a Thief" if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

We also learn that trafficking in stolen goods constitutes a felony in some states. (I'm pretty sick of criminal code legalese after "You F***ing Felon," so don't expect a state-by-state report anytime soon. One legal matter I might look into after watching this video, though, is this citizen's arrest business. Is that for real?)

Okay, I'll shut up and let Gillum have the last word:
Take my bike and I'm fanatical about it. It's my favorite thing in the world. I'll do whatever it takes to get it back.

October 11, 2013

Craigslist: The Black Hole of Bicycles

In "Who Pinched My Ride?"—yes, I'm still on that—Patrick Symmes calls Craigslist "the black hole of bicycles." Surely many a stolen bike has found its way into the hands of a less-than-scrupulous—demand a serial number, people, and run it through the registries!—buyer via the increasingly sketchy online marketplace...which is why stories of Craigslist-enabled bicycle recoveries make news.

In August, for instance, I read about Vancouver bartender Kayla Smith stealing her $1000+ bike back from a man trying to sell it on Craigslist for $300. Hear CBC audio below of Smith describing the reclamation sting, or read the Reddit post in which she tells what happened.

My reaction? (I posted it on Facebook when I linked to Grist's take on the tale of redemption.) "May we all be blessed with bike thieves this amateur." The guy tried to sell the bike two blocks from where he stole it, for goodness sake!  

Savvier thieves, of course, list stolen bikes on a neighboring city's Craigslist: a fixie purloined in Portland might be hawked in Seattle, say. When my 29er vanished from behind the building where I work in Dupont Circle, colleagues told me to keep as close an eye on the Baltimore and Philadelphia Craigslists as on the DC classifieds.

So what if your bike has been stolen, and you see what you're pretty sure is your bike for sale on Craigslist? As the NBC spot makes abundantly clear, law enforcement discourages victims of bike theft from pulling a Kayla Smith and taking matters into their own hands. (To be fair, Smith did call the cops before meeting the thief in the McDonald's parking lot; she just didn't get enough assurance that they'd take action in time.) The police would prefer that, assuming you're in a position to prove that the bike is yours—go turn your bike over and record that serial number—you call and tell them what's up. Sometimes it works out.

Don't believe me? Read this Good interview with Los Angeles freelance film and television designer Christian Brown. A quote:
The cops didn't actually let me get within sight of the bike seller. They sounded really worried that I'd do something "unwise," which wasn’t that unreasonable of them given the revenge dreams I was having.
The coppers know that when you "absolutely love love love" (to quote Kayla Smith) your bike, you're quite likely to go vigilante in the event it goes missing.

October 9, 2013

You F***ing Felon

When, in his epic Outside essay, Patrick Symmes mentioned "the fiscal definition of felony, which varies by state but is typically under the thousand-dollar mark," I was curious: How much does this definition vary from state to state? How is felony theft defined in the District of Columbia, where I live? Did whoever stole my bike commit a felony in so doing?

Now Wikipedia usually comes through with precisely the list I'm looking for, be it a rundown of state nicknames or a catalog of animal collectives, but its "grand theft" article includes information about a paltry 11 states—and "needs attention from an expert in Law."   

So I did what any monomaniacal opponent of bike theft would do; I started running Google searches of the form "[insert state name here] felony theft."

Here's what I discovered:

  • The value stolen property must have for its theft to constitute a felony—what I've called "felony threshold" in the table below—varies from $200 (Virginia) to $2500 (Wisconsin).
  • Theft of some kinds of property qualifies as a felony regardless of actual monetary value: credit cards, firearms, and motor vehicles fall into this category in many states, but also prescription drugs (North Dakota); license plates (Ohio); cemetery decorations (Georgia); anhydrous ammonia (Idaho); and United States flags used for display, voter registration books, and original copies of court or historic documents (Missouri).
  • State statutes are complicated and confusing. (Lots of states, for instance, have done away with or muddled the misdemeanor/felony distinction, favoring instead lettered classes of crimes.)

While I can't—thanks to the third bullet point above—100% vouch for the information in the table below (though I have linked to my sources so you can investigate for yourselves—inform me of any errors you find), I do know this: Whoever took my bike is a felon. I mean, between the Cannondale Trail SL 29er 4 ($800+), the Continental Race King tires ($100), the stop-on-a-dime BB7s ($160), the Lizard Skins lock-on grips, the Topeak BeamRack, the Nite Ize spoke light... Makes me mad just thinking about it.  

Felony threshold
Felony threshold
Alabama $500 Montana
Alaska $500
Arizona Nevada
Arkansas $1000 New Hampshire
California $950 New Jersey $500
Colorado $2000 New Mexico $500
Connecticut $2000 New York $1000
Delaware $1500 North Carolina $1000
D.C. $1000 North Dakota $500
Florida $300 Ohio $1000
Georgia 500 (discretion) Oklahoma $500
Hawaii $300 Oregon $1000
Idaho $1000 Pennsylvania $2000
Illinois $500 Rhode Island $500
Indiana not based on value South Carolina $2000
Iowa $1000 South Dakota $1000
Kansas $1000 Tennessee $500
Kentucky $500 Texas $1500
Louisiana any crime that carries
sentence of death
or imprisonment
Utah $1500
Maine $1000? $5000?* Vermont $900
Maryland $1000 Virginia
Massachusetts $250 Washington $750
Michigan $1000 West Virginia $1000
Minnesota $1000 Wisconsin $2500
Mississippi $500 Wyoming $1000
Missouri $500

*Special thanks to Jeffrey Lovit for helping to clarify the details of theft law in the Pine Tree State. It seems that the threshold there remains at $1000 for the time being.

October 7, 2013

Cash, Sex, Drugs, and Bicycles

If you haven't already read Patrick Symmes's "Who Pinched My Ride?," which appeared in the February 2012 issue of Outside, you should. 

I'm tempted to declare the almost 6,000-word piece a classic of bike theft literature. It tells the story of how the author's bike got stolen and how his thirst to avenge that violation "grew to encompass three cities, seven bikes, and repeated encounters with the dangerous underworld of vanished bicycles."

It will be months before I've researched and written posts about all the oh-so-germane topics Symmes touches on—Chris Brennan, who has a method of lock-picking named after him; the value a piece of stolen property has to have for its theft to qualify as a felony (apparently the value varies state-to-state); the possibility of tracking wayward spouses with Garmin GPS locators—so for now I'll leave it at a single quote (from which I took the title of this post) and, of course, the recommendation that you go read the piece in its entirety.

In America’s rough streets, there are four forms of currency—cash, sex, drugs, and bicycles. Of those, only one is routinely left outside unattended.

October 6, 2013

Mark Your Man (or Woman)

For the capstone project required for his degree, UK design student Michael Lambourn devised a bike lock he hoped would make "the experience of bike theft as unpleasant as possible to put off the opportunist thief."

How'd he do it? The SmartLock is a cable lock with cores of compressed air and liquid running its entire length. If the lock is cut, the liquid explodes onto the would-be thief and the scene of the crime.

Lambourn says that while the lock's four chambers (each with its own propellant!) could be adapted to contain "almost any liquid imaginable," he recommends using dye and something called SmartWater. (For you consumers of enhanced H2O beverages, this SmartWater is not Coca-Cola product.)

Lambourn explains his rationale:
The dye would stain clothes, skin, tools, the bike and the area but would fade within two or three months. Smartwater is a clear, odourless forensic liquid that can be detected by police. It has a unique coding that can link the thief to the stolen property and the scene of the crime.
Commenters on the Yanko Design post about the SmartLock had their own ideas:

Fill the lock with pressurized bleach and cat urine, and Ill take 20.

A better deterrent than dye would be mercaptan – aka skunk smell. You could have enough in that spray to make the guy smell like he was attacked by 1000 skunks.
Watch the video and see for yourself:

Want to buy one? While that's not an option—the SmartLock has never been commercially produced—I have made contact with Lambourn, so you at least have a follow-up post to look forward to...

October 5, 2013

This Bike Is a Pipebomb

At a recent birthday get-together, talk turned to protecting bicycles from theft. (Such topics arise naturally when four people who have had three bikes stolen find themselves inspecting a friend's stable of eight.)

I mentioned the pricey but somewhat anxiety-reducing lock I had purchased to secure the Surly I'd bought to replace my stolen Cannondale, but said that what I really wanted was to rig my bike such that if anyone other than me touched it, he or she would be in for a nasty—by which I mean literal—shock.

We riffed on this idea, suggesting a string of similarly unconventional and vaguely violent means of foiling would-be bike thieves: What if the lock, if tampered with, squirted acid? Or had a leghold trap attached to it? (Apparently Boston-based blogger Bikeyface—www.bikeyface.com—also has a pent-up desire to see bike thieves gnawing their trapped appendages off: see below.)

Creative Deterrents

Though one friend expressed concern about collateral damage—what if an unwitting child got the Taser-strength electroshock I'd intended for a criminal?—or our property-protection measures landing us in jail, the prevalence of bike theft has led many to at least fantasize about taking bike security to extremes. A BMXforum.com thread titled "how to booby-trap your bike" included these suggestions.

put some c4 on the handle bars with a remote control detanater.

hire a sniper/sharpshooter to watch your bike at all times. thats what i do and it seems to work. and you don't get caught with murder when the person dies

There was also this dubious strategy which I'm actually sort of implementing already:

get clear plastic pedals so the thief thinks the bike is useless without the pedals

(Somehow I doubt this deterrent would be effective even without that red circle...)

Something I learned while trolling the BMXforum thread: There's a Pensacola-based folk-punk band called This Bike Is a Pipebomb, and, as cataloged on the relevant Wikipedia page, a bike bearing a sticker with the band's name is enough to evacuate an airport or get the bike's owner charged with the misdemeanor of "inducing panic." Apparently you don't even have to actually booby-trap your bike to risk a run-in with law enforcement! 

(I looked to see if "This Bike Is a Pipebomb" stickers are still available for sale, but all I found was this.) 

October 3, 2013

Help Fund a Comprehensive Bike Registry

With nine days to go before the end of its Kickstarter fundraising campaign, the Bike Index has received pledges for only 51% of its $50,000 goal. If you want to help "create a comprehensive registry of bicycles to fight theft and save the world," back the project. Need more info before forking over the dough? Watch the Bike Index pitch:

October 2, 2013

To Confront a Thief

So you're not a bike ninja. You're not the type to get up in the grill of a guy who has the better of you weight-wise and a potential bludgeon in his back pocket to boot. But is it okay to see a bike theft in progress and just walk right by?

People do it all the time, even when the theft is occurring in broad daylight on a Vancouver thoroughfare and the crooks are wielding axes and two-by-fours. Does observing a crime and failing to take action—whether it be confronting the criminal or alerting authorities—make you a bad person? Complicit somehow?

These are questions a friend wanted me to force the public to consider by transforming my cut cable lock—pictured in the inaugural BTB post—into a provocative art installation.

Situate the cut lock in a high-traffic area, he said, like Dupont Circle on the weekend or during a weekday lunch hour. He had several suggestions for the text that could adorn a poster board next to the lock, but a clear favorite emerged: "Fuck You."

Now passersby might initially assume the profanity to be directed at a presumed thief, but then, as they perhaps averted their eyes from the unsettling sight, it might occur to them that the artist was cursing them, too, as members of a society that not only drives its citizens to lives of crime but too often fails to acknowledge this reality or do anything about it.

A fitting audio-visual addition to the installation might be ABC's What Would You Do? bike theft episode running on a loop (or motion-activated somehow?). It's enough to make anyone reflect a little. (You can get away with bike theft as long as you're white? If you're an attractive woman, men will help you steal a bike? WTF?)

October 1, 2013

TiGr: Elegant Bike Security

Readers of the post "Death to Bike Thieves" may have noted and had their interest piqued by a passing mention of a titanium lock. That would be the TiGr® I bought to help ensure that my new bike doesn't meet the same sad fate as the old one.

The TiGr appealed to me over other bike security options for several reasons:
  • While not impregnable—see the "attack video" embedded below—it is relatively hard to breach.
  • It is light-weight and can be affixed to the top tube for easy transport.
  • It is enough of a newcomer on the bike lock market that just its unfamiliar—and no-nonsense—look might suffice to make a thief move on.
(Which brings to mind something a fellow cyclist said to me last week at the bike rack behind the Tenleytown Whole Foods. He asked me about my lock, and I gave him the lowdown. "So thieves will take someone else's bike," he summarized. Damn it, I thought. I don't want them to take anyone's...)