April 30, 2014

Leave the Lock at Home, Says PubLock

You can gain admittance to an Ivy League school, apparently, and still not know your way around a U-lock. According to the Daily Pennsylvanian's crime reports, 23 of the 43 bike thefts on the University of Pennsylvania's campus in a given month were due to incorrect locking technique.

This statistic inspired Penn engineering students Alex Neier, Justin Starr, Joseph Polin, and Joseph Hill to design PubLock, a public bike locking system that not only eliminates the need for cyclists to lug around weighty chains or beefy U-locks but also safeguards against the incompetence factor that seems to plague a regrettable number of bike owners. PubLock is so simple and foolproof, claims publock.com, "it’s nearly impossible to use the lock incorrectly."

So how does it work? Just align the frame of your bike with an available rack, grab the handle and pull the chain around the frame and through your front wheel, and insert the handle into the locking mechanism. Then engage the lock with a tap of your personal RFID card. It's certainly faster than the process I go through with my combination of TiGr and cable!

There's lots to love about this concept. Not having to carry a lock, for one thing. And the team put a commendable amount of thought and effort into the fabrication of the system's components and the materials used. You can read all about it—or just watch a video of a professional locksmith taking an angle grinder to the chain to test it for susceptibility to cutting. The Daily Pennsylvanian trumpets PubLock's modularity and low cost. But...I've got one niggling concern born, perhaps, of overcaution bordering on paranoia: What about that rear wheel??

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