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!

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