June 29, 2014

Bike Registry Sunday—Merger Edition

In what I hope will be the first of many mergers, StolenBikeRegistry.com (SBR) and BikeIndex.org have joined forces. As Bike Index founder Seth Herr announced in a June 13 news release,
"We've combined the most sophisticated, user-friendly bicycle registry and the longest running and most successful stolen bicycle recovery service—creating the largest and most effective bike registry in the galaxy."
A tad hyperbolic, perhaps, but the post-merger force-to-be-reckoned-with will, as SBR founder Bryan Hance wrote, be able to "cover both pre- and post-theft registration" while, to paraphrase Herr, making it even easier for Hance to keep doing what he does best—recovering bikes (more than 2,000 since 2005!).

Personally I think we need more of this, more unification/consolidation of efforts to combat bicycle theft. In fact, shortly before I learned of the SBR/Bike Index merger I was contemplating the possibility of convening a bike theft summit of some sort, perhaps in connection with an existing meeting (the National Bike Summit?). I've been struck since launching Bike Thieves Beware in September 2013 by how many people are separately passionate about reducing bike theft, and I can't help but think that we'd make more headway if we worked together. So, kudos to SBR and Bike Index for starting to make that happen.

Oh, also: If, as I did the day my Cannondale was stolen, you've registered a bike on StolenBikeRegistry.com, don't worry. As SBR's Bryan Hance indicated in a June 17 email to registrants, all of SBR's listings have been ported into the Bike Index platform where they can be managed following a quick and presumably painless verification of email address.

Haven't registered with either Stolen Bike Registry or Bike Index? Show your trusty steed some love today.

June 19, 2014

Felix Ure—HENCHman

Another week, another bike lock Kickstarter campaign. In this one, British twenty-something Felix Ure appeals for help funding the development of what he claims will be "the most cut-proof and easily transportable bicycle lock ever made." It's called the HENCH.

HENCH consists of two case-hardened steel chains first surrounded by Kevlar fibers and then encased in nylon. It can be velcroed around a bike's top tube when not in use.

In the video included on Ure's Kickstarter page, he tests a prototype HENCH's resistance to attack by (1) hacksaw, (2) Dremel rotary tool, (3) a drill and cutting disc combination, (4 & 5) two sizes of bolt cutters, and (6) an angle grinder. See for yourself:

Now when, around 4:34, Ure pulls aside the milkweed fluff (a.k.a. Kevlar) spilling out of the lock's fabric casing, he reveals an almost unscathed chain. Great, but what's to prevent a would-be thief from similarly removing the Kevlar and taking an unobstructed (and perhaps successful) go at the chain itself? Nothing, by the looks of it, which may be why Ure lists "perfect the arrangement of Kevlar inside the lock to best resist tools" as the first stage of the to-be-funded project.

Also, as Ure told the Kent and Sussex Courier, "It’s really important that a bike lock can last long enough for a thief to be deterred." No lock is impregnable, after all, so the goal is to make a lock hard enough to compromise that a would-be thief will either give up trying to break it or be at it so long that he's caught in the act.

Whatever you think of the Kevlar, Ure's got youthful optimism going for him. And he's so earnest: "I will do whatever it takes to perfect the design and see it become a reality," he promises could-be funders on his Kickstarter site, "because I genuinely believe this is the answer to the worldwide problem of bicycle theft."

June 13, 2014

Word of the Day: "Bikejacker"

I sometimes assume that my bike is safe from theft. When it's locked within view, for instance. Or leaning against the wall of my (locked) apartment. Or when I'm riding it. Sitting astride your steed is insufficient safeguard in South Africa, though, where a 2011 increase in bike-jackings had Bicycling magazine offering readers a rather chilling how-to list: "How To Avoid a Bike-Jacking."

Cyclists should ride in groups, Bicycling advised, and avoid unfamiliar areas. 

Malcolm Fox did neither on May 31. The 36-year-old father of two, a project manager at the Virgin Active chain of health clubs, got lost on a ride through the Ongegund vineyard in Somerset West near the southwest tip of South Africa. Three men held him up at gunpoint, robbing him of his sunglasses, car keys, cell phone, and mountain bike. They did not take the GoPro camera mounted on Fox's helmet. It recorded the entire exchange, and Fox later posted the footage on YouTube:

While Fox's story ends happily enough—his GoPro video helped police apprehend three suspects and his bike has been recovered—he has learned his lesson. He'll no longer ride alone.

Be safe, cyclists, and beware of bikejackers.

June 8, 2014

Bike Registry Sunday—Petition Edition

Project 529 had me at 'hello.' Or, more accurately/literally, as soon as I read KATU News's explanation of the Portland startup's name. Say the digits of the number individually and you have the phonetic equivalent of "five to nine," or what Project 529 co-founder Jason Scott calls "the opposite of your nine to five."

The company's name, then, reflects an effort to shift focus from traditional work hours to, well, the rest of the time, the time you could be spending (at least in part) riding bikes. YES, I thought. Tell me more.

So...Project 529 is a software company aiming to build products that "enhance the cycling experience." Their first offering is a web and mobile registration and recovery service called 529 Garage. It functions like an Amber Alert for stolen bikes. Register your ride—the process takes mere minutes—and then, should it get stolen, use the 529 Garage app to alert all users within 10 miles. The service was jointly developed with law enforcement, it logs your bike accessories, there are theft deterrent bike stickers in the mix...good stuff.

My favorite part of Project 529's anti-theft efforts, though, even better than the registry or the "bike thieves suck" shirts, is the petition they've written asking Craigslist and eBay to require serial numbers on all bike sales.

"Every 30 seconds, a cyclist has their bike stolen in the United States," it begins.
"Nearly half of college students with bicycles will lose them during their education. Bicycle theft is rampant in the United States, and it's due in part to the ease of fencing stolen bikes through online sites. 
There's a simple solution that would help dramatically cut down on these statistics: requiring a serial number when selling bikes online."
Read the rest of the petition (and sign it, too, if you're so inclined). (And register your bike(s), people. Please.)

June 5, 2014

The Smartest Lock on the Block?

It has been covered by Slate and Wired and Businessweek and, hell, NPR, so perhaps you've heard already: There's a solar-powered, Bluetooth-equipped, keyless-entry, [insert high-tech hyphenated adjective here] U-lock in the works.

It's called Skylock, and is brought to you by Jack Al-Kahwati and Gerardo Barroeta of Velo Labs. The device is powered by built-in solar panels, has an accelerometer that can detect motion near your bike (or whether you've been in a collision), and connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth so it can unlock automatically as you approach. As Kyle VanHemert wrote for Wired:
That might seem incredibly handy or completely absurd, depending on your outlook. To those who eagerly anticipate the small conveniences of a more connected world, the Skylock cleverly smooths out the annoyance of futzing with keys. To cynics, it will undoubtedly look like another solution in search of a problem. How much time do we waste futzing with keys, anyway?
Leaving aside the question of whether key futzing is a serious time sink (and deferring to others the discussion of the possibilities Skylock affords for do-it-yourself bike-sharing), let's examine how the Skylock stacks up as an anti-theft device.

According to the Skylock FAQ page, Skylock

  • is equipped with a triaxial accelerometer to detect tampering. The Skylock app permits users to set the sensitivity that will trigger a theft alert.
  • is "at least as secure as the top competitor." Its dual locking pins require a would-be thief to cut the lock twice before being able to make off with the bike.
  • is immune to freezing attacks and picking, and small enough to prevent purchase from a jack. 
  • can, like any lock, be cut.
  • can be hacked, though this is "extremely unlikely."

Not bad... If, after watching the pitch below, you think the Skylock is for you, click over to https://skylock.cc/. You can snag the $249 lock for $159—but only "for a limited time."