September 30, 2016

U-locks Are Targets Now

Bike security is an arms race: As riders employ sturdier locks, would-be thieves wield more powerful tools or devise sneakier attacks.

Consider the Bay Area. For years, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has mounted a public information campaign aimed at getting cyclists to swap their cable locks for more secure U-locks. And BART bike thefts have declined, 28 percent between 2014 and 2015, and another 22 percent in the first seven months of 2016. Bike East Bay's outreach coordinator Robert Prinz told the East Bay Times he attributes this decrease not only to BART's installation of bike lockers and encouragement of bike valet parking, but to its pro-U-lock message.

But now that the low-hanging cabled-locked fruit is more rare, thieves are increasingly targeting U-locks. Analysis by the East Bay Times of bikes reported stolen in the first three months of 2016 showed that, where the type of lock was mentioned, approximately 45 percent of thefts involved a cable lock, while around 38 percent involved U-locks. Sentences like this one from the East Bay Times's story strike fear in the heart of any bike lover: "In at least one case, the cyclist secured the bike with two Kryptonite U-locks—among the most expensive around—and a Kryptonite-brand chain, only to find the bike missing." Is no configuration of locks safe??

BART is considering upping its theft-prevention game with the installation of a new kind of bike rack, called Bikeep. Check out the next security measure thieves will be figuring out how to foil:

September 28, 2016

More Red Schwinns

Two updates on the Muhammed Ali story BTB brought you in June:

1. The red bike Spalding University hung from what used to be Columbia Gym to honor Muhammed Ali (and mark the spot where his boxing career got its start) was stolen in August. When efforts to recover the bike proved unsuccessful, the university replaced it. The new two-wheeled tribute is suspended by from cables rather than ropes, and Spalding's president is stressing that the bike has no historic value. "It's not Muhammad Ali's bicycle," Tori Murden McClure told WDRB News. "Don't come and steal it."

A replacement bike rises above the entry of the Spalding University Center, which the university's
Board of Trustees has voted to rename Columbia Gym, as the building was known when Ali was a boy.

2. In another bike-related commemoration of Ali, 100 children in the boxer's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, received donated Schwinns earlier this month. The 100 youngsters, all of whom had learned bike safety skills in Bike Louisville's Bike Sense program, also each received a helmet and lock. "The Champ inspired us all to believe that we could, like him, be 'The Greatest' at whatever we are willing to work hard to be," said Mayor Greg Fischer, "and with this donation, we're rewarding hard work and focus." 

September 17, 2016

Another Bike Lock Contender

So for all my May coveting, I did not in fact fund Altor's Kickstarter campaign. The 560G titanium bike lock was to be the Bethelem, PA-based outfit's first ever product, and part of me didn't believe they'd pull it off...

Oh me of little faith! The 560G is now available on Altor's website not for pre-order, but for bona fide have-it-within-days purchase. My doubt cost me the early-bird discount, of course, but the 560G remains atop my must-have list.

I also, however, have my eye on yet another Kickstarter, this one for Ottolock, the "go-anywhere cinch lock." While Altor bills the 560G as "the world's strongest lightest lock" (thus likely angling for the same market share as the folks at TiGr), the Ottolock positions itself carefully between the two most familiar types of bike lock: "It's far more secure than a cable lock, and much lighter than a U-lock."

Actually, at 115 grams, the Ottolock is lighter than either a cable lock (350-1200 grams) or a U-lock (1200-2500 grams). It is not, however—and makes no claim to be—stronger than a U-lock. Which is all that gives my security-obsessed self pause.

Otherwise the Ottolock looks great. Super portable and apparently surprisingly strong. Even if you wouldn't trust it to keep your bike safe in a high-risk area or for long periods of unsupervised time, it might be handy to have for quick or unanticipated lock-ups.

Already supported by over 1200 backers to the tune of more than twice its fundraising goal, Ottolock is sure to be spotted on bike frames near you in the not too distant future... Will yours be one of them?

September 1, 2016

"Ready to go Rambo to get that bike back"

This is just to say that you should read Christopher Solomon's Outside story "The Real-Life Superhero Who Beats the Cops to Bike Thieves." BTB brought you (courtesy of the Seattle Times and the Guardian) word of Bike Repo Batman back in March, but Solomon's got the fuller scoop.

"A year ago," it teases, "before the man they call Bike Batman began his work—before he headed out on missions around the Emerald City with a pocketful of cash and the cops on speed dial and a paladin’s sense of wrongs to be righted, before he’d rescued two dozen stolen bikes from the grubby fingers of the city’s thieves, before even anyone referred to him as Bike Batman—he was just an average-seeming guy in Seattle who liked to ride his bicycles."

Go read the rest. (But know that you might be inspired to undertake something akin to Bike Batman's vigilantism yourself. "Our thirst for justice," as Solomon writes, "runs strong.")