March 28, 2014

Booby-Trap Your Own Bike??

It happens to even the most conscientious of bike owners. You bring the lock but not the key. Or you plan a no-stops recreational or training ride but end up having to run an errand on the way home. For one reason or another, you need to leave your bike for a few minutes and you have no way to secure it. What's a rider to do?

Bicycling magazine's list of ways to "booby-trap your bike" includes undoing the quick releases and rigging the chain (shift into the big-cog/big-chainring combination and then, after you park—no pedaling—shift to the small cog and small chainring), and these same strategies are featured in the Global Cycling Network's video on the subject:

This all seemed unambiguously lawful and legitimate to me...until I watched this video, in which a man soaps a bike's handlebar grips, loosens its stem, and monkeys with its chain. Then he leaves the two-wheeler unlocked and waits around so he can videotape a would-be thief taking a spill. Commenters on the video question the cameraman's priorities, whether his crusade against theft justifies his creation of "a situation that potentially endangers the life and limb of people."

Maybe it's okay to rig your bike in a pinch, but not to booby-trap bikes for the express purpose of giving thieves a nasty—and possibly injurious—surprise?

Not according to the Environmental Transport Association (ETA), a provider of cycle insurance in the United Kingdom. Folks who call to request a quote from the company are asked how they secure their bikes, and, as director Andrew Davis told the London Evening Standard in 2010, a few have confessed to taking some pretty nonstandard antitheft measures.

A Londoner reported securing his bike with a length of transparent fishing line, reasoning that a thief would be thrown over the handlebars when the line drew taut and stopped the bike abruptly. Another cyclist said he wired his bike to his home burglar alarm, while a third parked his ride such that moving it would release a guard dog from behind a gate. (For more on canine bike security, see here and here.)

Davis not only discourages such behavior, but calls it criminal: “Illegal booby-trapped bicycles of this kind might appeal to the victims of theft," he was quoted as saying in 2010, "but luckily most cyclists realise that a good insurance policy will quickly arrange for a stolen bike to be replaced.”

Spoken like a true insurance salesman, one who fails to recognize that a bike is often worth more to its owner than its ticket price. I'll have to contact some U.S. experts to find out whether bicycle booby-trappers on this side of the pond risk prosecution should a would-be thief come to harm while trying to make a getaway.

1 comment: