July 31, 2014

Even If Your Mom Were a Villain...

Six-year-old Roxy Thompson of Portland, OR, made news last week when she penned a yard sign note to whoever had relieved her dad of "about half a dozen custom road bikes." (Wait, does the man own so many bikes that he can't even remember them all??) Having already offered her bereft father her life's savings, Roxy sought, via the yard sign, to guilt the thieves into reversing the wrong they'd committed. I love how she considered the possibility of villainous mothers and concluded that even they would frown on their offspring's perpetration of criminal acts: 

BikePortland.org picked up Roxy's story, declaring the spirited girl the personification of "the widespread disdain of bike thieves in Portland these days." After recapping Roxy's reaction to her father's loss, BikePortland news editor Michael Andersen and coauthor Jonathan Maus offered readers a rundown of relevant Rose City facts. I learned a thing or two: that police often have trouble obtaining the evidence and search warrants necessary to dismantle chop shops, for instance, and that even a locked garage/U-lock combo can't always deter Portland bike thieves. Andersen and Maus also mentioned the Portland-based band Bike Thief I cited in a January post and floated an idea that has been on my mind recently, too: a bike theft summit.

This prompted my fourth ever tweet:

Might something come of this? Stay tuned...

July 29, 2014

Stolen Bike Hunt

From Toronto to Texas, victims of bike theft are turning to Facebook to increase the chances of recovering their stolen property. 

As the National Post reported, Christian Garnette reclaimed his fixie within hours of its theft because he posted a photo of it to the Facebook page of a local shop and asked his fellow fixed gear enthusiasts to keep their eyes out.

And both the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Houston's KHOU TV (video since removed—sorry) have picked up stories about Facebook groups expressly created to crowdsource the recovery of stolen bikes.

KHOU spoke to Spencer Elliott of Stolen Bike Hunt - Houston, "a message board for anyone who has a bike stolen." Besides encouraging victims of bike theft to post photos and descriptions of their stolen rides, Elliott offers reminders about how to prevent theft.

The Facebook search feature turns up many groups similar to Elliott's, from Cleveland Stolen Bike Alerts to Stolen Bikes La Crosse County to RVA Stolen Bicycle Forum. Consider joining (or "liking"—which action is appropriate depends on how the page has been set up) a Facebook-based bike recovery effort in your area or, if none exists, starting one.

(I just liked Missing Bikes-DC and Stolen Bikes in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, though neither page seems to be seeing much action. Looks like, in my town, Tumblr is the social media of choice for getting the word out about stolen bikes. Hmmm.)

July 22, 2014

The First Step

I've been known to complain about the United States' relative lack of slick bike infrastructure, and my impulse would be to classify Norway's Gulskogen Bicycle Hotel with the Eindhoven Hovenring in the category of bike-related-feats-of-engineering-we'll-never-halfway-replicate-stateside, but... Yes, the Gulskogen Bicycle Hotel has that concrete tongue-shaped ramp that spills out from a circular wooden border framing a metal doorway and that porous filigree pattern that sprawls across the metal doorway and gable wall (Inhabitat gushes over the "intricate filigree facade"), but...Washington, D.C. has Bikestation.

Both the Norwegian bicycle hotel and Bikestation Washington DC use a double-decker pull-out system of racks to accommodate more than 100 bikes (Norway: 134, United States: 140). The design of each facility took its surroundings into consideration. And both bikes-only parking garages aim to keep my favorite form of two-wheeled transportation both sheltered from the elements and safe from thieves.

Though area cyclists whose travels revolve around a metro other than Union Station will have to content themselves with $120/year, subject-to-availability bicycle lockers for now, District Department of Transportation Director Gabe Klein says he wants to erect modular versions of Bikestation around the city. Watch out, Norway :)

July 15, 2014

ABUS: Obsessed with Testing and Innovation

Maybe I just patronize all the wrong retailers, but I neither own an ABUS lock nor know much about ABUS, the German firm that supposedly invented the U-lock. Thanks to the folks at D.C. bike shop BicycleSPACE (where—full disclosure—I bought my Surly Ogre), though, I got a peek this week into how ABUS puts its bike locks through the paces. 

BicycleSPACE cofounder Erik Kugler toured ABUS headquarters with, apparently, a film crew in tow:

By all means watch all seven videos from the trip—the entire playlist is embedded above—but if you're interested primarily in purposeful destruction (or at least attempted destruction) feel free to skip ahead to the testing videos, in which ABUS employees use specially constructed machines to try to smash, twist, and pull their locks into submission:

From this I gather that, where U-locks are concerned, (1) soft core is better than case hardened and (2) square shackles and a two-sided lock mechanisms offer more protection than, respectively, round and one-sided ones. Hmmm.

July 8, 2014


To my (admittedly measly) seven Twitter followers, don't get your hopes up. I don't have a slew of pithy aphorisms up my sleeve. I only signed up so I could try out @isitstolen.

Post a serial number to @isitstolen and a bot will run it against the Bike Index database and tweet back to you whether or not there's a hit.

Here's what happened when I tweeted the serial number of my stolen Cannondale. (The duplicate entry is an artifact of the recent Bike Index/Stolen Bike Registry merger.)

  1. Before you buy a used bike, run the serial number (either via Twitter or in the search bar at the top of the Bike Index page). (Can't find the serial number? Get help here and here.)
  2. Sign Project 529's petition urging Craigslist and eBay to require serial numbers in online listings for used bikes. This will make it easier for you to check those digits before buying.
  3. Register your bike(s) if you haven't already (!).

July 4, 2014

When the Rack's the Weak Link

I've so far confined myself to photographing bike racks, but I might start vigorously shaking them. Before I entrust my bike to one of the tubular waves, at any rate. It's not unprecedented, apparently, for a lone and not exactly muscle-bound criminal to rip a bike rack from the sidewalk. It happened in the East Rock neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, in late June:

Now I know nothing about bike rack installation, but in-ground mounts seem preferable to surface ones, and "Drop In Anchors...for concrete installation" sound good.

When in doubt about a rack's integrity, affix your bike to it such that even if a thief wrenches the thing from the ground, s/he will still have to break your lock or, short of that, drag the whole bloody bike/lock/rack unit back to her/his lair.