December 31, 2014

Resolve to Thwart Theft

Bike Thieves Beware is going on a hiatus of indefinite duration.

That doesn't mean, of course, that you should let your guard down. You love your bikes, people, so lock 'em up proper—this year and the next and the next and the next.

Earlier this month I chatted with a Dutch expat who was feeding the Tenleytown meter to which I'd locked my Surly. He said that his 80-year-old mother—in the Netherlands—still transports her groceries by bike. Can I keep biking for another half century? And never lose another bike to theft? I'm sure as hell gonna try...

December 24, 2014

Takeaways from Portland's Bike Theft Summit

Since I didn't contrive to attend the Bike Theft Summit in Portland earlier this month, I eagerly read Jonathan Maus's account of the evening over at Here's what stood out to me as possibly useful/interesting to anti-bike-thefters everywhere:

Address the demand: Efforts to combat bike theft often focus on the available supply of steal-able bikes. Cyclists are encouraged to use beefier locks, lock only to dedicated racks (more on those below), never leave a bike outside overnight... Consider instead the demand side of bike theft, urged Marc Jolin and Halley Weaver, of homeless advocacy groups JOIN and Transition Projects, respectively. If homeless people steal bicycles because they don't have cars and can't afford public transit, might providing the homeless with reliable bikes cut thefts?

Push registration: BTB has been singing the praises of registries forever. A bigger percentage of the bike-owning public needs to register, though, for the likes of Bike Index to achieve its potential. Bryan Hance told summit attendees that Bike Index is beginning to address the problem through what Maus calls "direct integration of point-of-sale systems at bike shops." (I gather from the registry's "About" page that Maus was referring to how Bike Index has made registration automatic for some manufacturers and bike shops.) Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), though, takes a more low-tech approach (one that could be replicated elsewhere): Outreach to new residents includes not only information about biking, but also old-school paper registration cards.

Install the right racks: Take a look at the bike rack above. I photographed it while in Portland for a conference in August, more for the cut cable than the rack itself, honestly. But notice how, if the rack were wrenched from the sidewalk somehow, it looks like the U-lock would be able to slip right over the rack's foot. It came to light at the bike theft summit, though, that PBOT is considering changing the design of the city's basic blue staple rack to include feet big enough to preclude unscrew-and-slip-off maneuvers. Here's one context in which a larger footprint is a good thing!

December 18, 2014

Attention Mr. Buckmaster

So did you sign the petition? Project 529 reported last week that, in early December, it sent the CEOs of Craiglist and eBay the names of 51,203 cyclists who want the online sellers to require serial numbers on bike listings.

And the Portland-based outfit didn't just email the executives a big Word file. No. Each bigwig received via FedEx a wooden binder with the petition text and the signatures of the Project 529 staff laser etched on the cover.

"We need to grab the attention of the executives and attempt [to] convey the passion of 50,000+ cyclists in a physical manifestation," explains the webpage about the petition. "…and of course we live in Portland."

Need they say more? (They do. Here and here. Read it if you want to know more about the beauty of the binder shown in the GIF below or if you're curious how folks go about collecting so bloody many signatures.)

December 16, 2014


I've written before about Facebook groups devoted to getting the word out about—and hopefully speeding the recovery of—stolen bikes. Here's a dramatic example of one such group—Twin Cities Stolen Bikes—in action. As Gear Junkie put it, "a real-time bike recovery went down as participants watched online." 

Read it, and marvel at the sometimes beneficent power of social media:

December 11, 2014

Fortified Bicycle Promises Anti-Theft Bike

I've got a Fortified Bicycle Afterburner (back light) on pre-order, so I've been following the Boston-based startup's progress. Apparently they've got big plans for 2015: a move to a new 3,000-5,000 square foot headquarters and the rollout of an anti-theft bicycle.

I'm curious about what this will entail, especially since Fortified Bicycle co-founder Slava Menn is promising the bike will not only be "virtually maintenance-free" but cost a mere $500. Several times in the Boston Business Journal interview below Menn mentions the theft of bike accessories, but it's unclear whether things like lights and locks with be integrated into the anti-theft bike or sold separately. Take a look/listen:

December 9, 2014

"Time to Get Educated, Organized, and Inspired"

I wish I were in Portland, Oregon. This is not, to be honest, an uncommon wish for me to have, but at present there's a particular event that has me hankering to be in the City of Roses. Tomorrow night from 6 to 9 p.m. at Velo Cult Bike Shop, will host the first ever Portland Bike Theft Summit.

Titled “The Problem, The People, The Solutions,” the event will feature panel discussions of enforcement, parking, and education/technology, bringing together police officers and bike valets, park rangers and transportation planners. The summit is sponsored by Bike Index, and representatives of both that outfit and Project 529 will speak. There will also be time for networking ("and other fun stuff TBD") and a documentary filmmaker on hand to record attendees' tales of bike theft and recovery. The full program is outlined here.

Go to the summit if you can, and, if not, consider whether your city might be able to organize an analogous event. Hmmm.

December 2, 2014

The Shape of Future Bike Racks

East Lansing may have artsy bike racks, but Singapore's got a new crop of simple yet functional ones.

On November 23, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) announced three initiatives aimed at combatting bike theft: (1) placement of signage near bicycle racks to raise awareness of theft risk, (2) the launch of an enhanced bicycle labeling system, and (3) the pilot of a new bicycle rack, the Lock Lah.

Available at nine locations across the island as of November 7, Lock Lah's innovative design includes a bay that protects a bike's front wheel from the prying hands of would-be wheel thieves and a lengthy and laddered loop to which a cyclist can lock the rear wheel and frame. A still captured from the video available here gives you the idea:

Conceived by an Indonesian team—LASALLE College of Arts students Joanna Christie Lie and Yanti Agustin and Toyota technician Inigo—the Lock Lah won the 2013 Bicycle Bay Design Competition organized by the SPF and NCPC. The trio received S$10,000 (about $7,670) for their effort, but the real reward had to be seeing the design fabricated and installed as part of Singapore's anti-theft campaign.