March 23, 2016

Across the Pond: BikeDock and Cyclehoop

No doubt I'd be aware of many more advances in bike infrastructure if my Google Alert returned (and I could read!) news stories in Danish or Dutch, but thankfully I can, even with my linguistic shortcomings, learn what British bike enthusiasts are up to. Two London-based initiatives caught my attention this week.

BikeDock grew from Denis Quilligan's conviction that a cyclist should not have to choose between having a wheel stolen and lugging two locks around. In Quilligan's design, the bike rack itself does the work of the second lock:  

Since six BikeDocks were installed in the London suburb of Dagenham a year ago, no thefts have been reported, and the rack is currently being tested in Central London. May it spread far and wide!

Cyclehoop takes a different approach to bicycle parking, converting existing street furniture into someplace a cyclist could feel good locking his or her bike: 

Launched in London in 2008, Cyclehoop has been adopted across the UK. One concern, though: What's to stop a thief from uninstalling the Cyclehoop (installation doesn't look like it requires terribly exotic tools) and then lifting the bike over the post as before? I'd have to assess the topology...

Side note: Hooray for public bike pumps!

March 21, 2016

"The bolts and screws are already there"

Your bike's got perfectly good bolts, say the creators of the Hexlox. All you need is a way to prevent would-be component thieves from loosening those fasteners. And Hexlox, fully funded on Kickstarter well ahead of its April 14 deadline, promises to do just that (just ask the Berlin Lockpicking Society!):

March 16, 2016

"I’m telling people: this is not yours."

The Guardian picked up the Bike Repo Batman story and secured the first interview with the vigilante they're calling simply "Bike Batman."

So to fill in some of the heretofore missing details:
  • Bike Batman is a 6'4" thirty-something engineer.
  • He began his bike recovery efforts in 2015.
  • BB is largely motivated by the desire to uphold Seattle's reputation as a friendly city.
  • Our hero does inform police of his meet-ups with sellers. In more than half of the 22 cases in which he has reclaimed stolen bikes, the thief has been arrested.
  • Bike Batman is not foolhardy; he admits that he once aborted a recovery mission for fear of being jumped by a group of suspected thieves. BB characterizes his actions this way: "I’m not out fighting crime and punching people. I’m telling people: this is not yours."
Want to know more? Read the Guardian's full story.

March 15, 2016

Bike Repo Batman

Photo credit: Sevi_Lwa via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND
One man has made it his personal mission to, as the Seattle Times' Evan Bush puts it, "restore justice to the two-wheeled world." Dubbed "Bike Repo Batman" by Bryan Hance of Bike Index, the anonymous vigilante recovered more than 20 stolen bikes in 2015.

BRB compares bikes hawked via sketchy classifieds with those listed as stolen on registries like Hance's. When he finds a match, he arranges to meet the would-be seller. Once face-to-face, BRB presents proof that the bike is stolen and hints that the police might be interested. Often the seller surrenders the bike, which BRB can then return to its grateful owner.

One beneficiary of BRB's recovery efforts describes her bike's savior as part do-gooder and part thrill-seeker: "The impression I got from him, and stuff his wife said, [is] he’s kind of an adrenaline junkie," she told the Seattle Times. "It’s his way of giving back to the community."

March 14, 2016

Leave No Trace (or Do, If You Want to Get Caught)

Photo credit: Xavier Roeseler via / CC BY-NC-SA
If, as a bike thief, your plan involves leaving possessions at the scene of the crime, best to wipe them down first. Briton Andrew Grubb learned this the hard way in February.

Grubb rode a rusty old bike to Bristol Parkway station, where he stole the frame and rear wheel of one bike and the front wheel of another. He cobbled the pilfered property into a complete (non-rusty) ride and took off, leaving the bike he'd arrived on behind. Along with—it turned out—his DNA.

Tipped off by witnesses, the British Transport Police's forensic team swabbed the bike, recovered the DNA, and identified Grubb—a known bike theft who lived in the neighborhood—as the culprit. Appearing in Bristol Magistrates' Court, Grubb was ordered to pay £1,000 and £40, respectively, to the cyclists whose frame/rear wheel and front wheel he took.

Moral for the cyclists (as opposed to the would-be bike thieves) among you: Don't lock your bike solely by the front wheel, but be sure to secure it, too!

March 2, 2016

A Better Staple

In January 2015 we learned that Portland's ubiquitous staple racks are sometimes—if seldom—cut clear through.

And just last week the BBC reported that bike thieves in the UK have taken to cutting racks and then hiding their handiwork with tape to fool cyclists into thinking they're locking their rides to uncompromised infrastructure.

But bike security is nothing if not an arms race, and the city of Portland has just upped its game. As Jonathan Maus announced on, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has revamped the staple rack: they've added a steel crossbar, placed a floating wire rope inside the rack's steel pipe body, and instructed installation crews to ground the racks in 18-inch deep concrete foundations, as shown below.

While the new racks won't replace existing ones, they will be used in all future installations. Ball's in your court, bike thieves.