The Chainlink

We are entering high season for Bike Theft in the City of Chicago. Reports to the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry are starting to come in at the rate of more than one per day. If last year is any indication, they’ll peak out at a rate of more than four per day, and a really busy day may see as many as ten thefts reported in a single day.

 

I believe in the axiom that if a bike thief really wants to steal your bike, there’s not much you can do to keep your bike from getting stolen. But I also believe in the axiom that if you only lock your bike with a cable lock, or a combination cable lock, or a cable and padlock, or you don’t lock your bike at all, your bike is going to get stolen even if the thieves only “sort of” want to steal your bike. I also fervently believe in the punchline “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you.”

 

Facts:

There are about 2500 bikes listed on the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry (CSBR).

 

20% of those stolen bikes (CSBR) weren’t locked - no lock at all. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis.

 

34% of those stolen bikes (CSBR) were locked with either a combination cable lock, a cable with an integrated key lock or a cable with a padlock.

 

The Chicago Police Department does not maintain theft data specifically for bikes, but estimates that in excess of 5000 bikes per year are stolen in the City of Chicago.

 

Fewer than half of the CSBR entries contain a serial number, which just happens to be the single most important piece of information for identifying and recovering a stolen bike.

 

I know what you’re saying. “Hey wait just a minute Kevin, these aren’t Fun Facts. Truthfully, these are pretty depressing statistics. Throw us a bone, would you?” 

 

OK, but just this once...

 

I have yet to see an entry on the CSBR for a bike which was cross-locked; i.e. two U-locks or a U-lock together with a heavy duty security chain and padlock.

 

The Chicago Stolen Bike Registry now contains a link which enables you to register your bike BEFORE IT’S STOLEN. The link is to Bike Revolution, an organization based in London which enables you to register your bike, enter a photo if you like, record any identifying accessories that distinguish your bike and print a certificate for your records. A dirty little secret about registering your bike with the Chicago Police Department is that your registration drops out of their system every two years. The people behind the curtain at the CSBR have maintained six and a half years of data regarding thefts, and pledge to retain the registration data through and including the date you sell or dispose of your bike, or the date on which you attend your first grandchild’s grammar school graduation, whichever date comes first. 

 

Kryptonite used to do an annual list of the top ten worst cities in the US for bike theft. (The underlying Kryptonite data is proprietary, but the worst cities are based on rate of theft rather than gross numbers, and reading between the lines, relates to claims on the Kryptonite replacement guarantee.) New York was always #1 followed by everyone else. By the time they stopped 3 years ago, NY settled at #3, with Philadelphia at #1 and Chicago at #2. I spoke with the brand manager at Kryptonite a couple of times last fall seeking insight into how Chicago could use the lessons learned in NY to reduce theft in Chicago. Was it the fact that New York got a Kryptonite lock named after them? Nah, it was awareness, pure and simple. The publicity associated with being the worst city in the US for bike theft made people in New York more aware of how and where they locked their bike. It made New Yawkers more aware that they needed to spend some money for the best lock(s) they could afford, and lock their bike every time-even if they were just going inside “for a minute.”   

 

I don’t want to blame the victim here, but 54% of the bikes stolen in the City of Chicago either aren’t locked or are locked with a cable lock. A little awareness of that fact alone could reduce the incidence of bike theft in Chicago substantially. Recovery rates for bicycles where the owner doesn’t even know their serial number are abyssmal. Until these facts change, my strategy is: I lock my bike with two U-locks (and a cable) anytime I leave my transportation/commuter unattended for longer than half an hour. If I leave it unattended for less than that, I have one U-lock on it. If I’m lucky, I get to lock my bike to a bike rack with two U-locks next to a bike locked with a combination cable lock.

 

Register your bike. Write down your serial number.

 

Riding a bike is fun. Returning to the location where you locked your bike and finding it there is almost as much fun.

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Paranoid is good-it means you're paying attention. I carry with me the added paranoia of being one of the administrators for the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry, as well as the paranoia associated with being a member of the Bicycle Recovery Collective. You have no idea how uncool it would be if my bike got lifted...

 

In keeping with my heightened sense of responsibility/paranoia, I know that in single lock thefts, 32% are locked through the front wheel and frame, but only 5% are locked through the rear wheel and frame. My rational being says that's due to 6+ times more people locking their bike only through the front wheel and frame as compared to rear wheel and frame. My paranoid/superstitious being says that where there's a difference of a factor of six, I use my best lock on the rear wheel and frame. Might not make a difference, but you never know.

Melanie said:

I'm paranoid, so I carry two U-Locks. I lock the frame and front wheel to the rack/post, as well as use the other u-lock to lock the frame and back wheel to the rack or post when possible- otherwise, I use the second lock to secure wheel to frame. I also think that a thief is more likely to pass on my bike in favor of one not locked with 2 U-locks.
As someone else has described on the chainlink, locks are delay mechanisms. I look at locks in terms of the number of "cuts" required to defeat them. A front wheel locked with the same lock as that affixed to the rear wheel and frame doesn't increase the number of "cuts" required.

Mike Zumwalt said:

I may be preaching to the Choir here but a U-lock and a cable lock is good, or take the front wheel off, lock it to the back wheel and frame.

Got a quick release on the seat? lock the bike take the seat inside to work.

My crap bike was dispensable, so I dispensed with it. Now I wish I hadn't.

 

It was recently implied to me that putting my lesser U-lock on the front wheel and frame was essentially an invitation to have the front wheel stolen, so I've been hobbling it lately. Is this actually a worse idea? I always figured it represented another delay mechanism.

Kevin Conway said:
As someone else has described on the chainlink, locks are delay mechanisms. I look at locks in terms of the number of "cuts" required to defeat them. A front wheel locked with the same lock as that affixed to the rear wheel and frame doesn't increase the number of "cuts" required.

Mike Zumwalt said:

I may be preaching to the Choir here but a U-lock and a cable lock is good, or take the front wheel off, lock it to the back wheel and frame.

Got a quick release on the seat? lock the bike take the seat inside to work.

It takes 30 seconds maximum to cut through most locks.  What is 30 more seconds?  They already have the power tool to cut the first lock the second (or third) cut isn't going to take them very long in great scheme of things.  If they want your bike and have a power tool they are going to get it.

 

The very best defense mechanism is to have a bike that they are not going to sell for a lot of money.  That makes them move down the bike rack to a bike that they can make more of a profit off of.  It's all about the laws of supply and demand here.  Your $75 bike isn't likely to get stolen if it is properly locked up even with one lock unless a wheel is exposed that they might take.  The bike they can sell for $500 of easy profit because it retails for over $1000 new is a different story.  Sad but true fact.  In this city you just can't have anything nice. 

Please explain to me how, exactly, you can do that.

Rene Lawell said:
just dont leave your bike unattended.

Julie Hochstadter said:

I do the first, even with my lock sometimes.  It will still take time to either get the helmet off or at least double the time since they have to cut to things...  Anything you can do to add time I think wards off would be theives.

 

Julie

Tour de Cure said:

I once read an article about how to slow down a theif if you have to run into a store for two minutes and don't have a lock.  1.  Put your helmet straps through the spokes of your wheel and then snap the strap closed.  A theif will have to take a few seconds to undo your strap to ride off with your bike which may give you time to dive out the door and stop them.  The other thing to do is put the gears in the hardest gearing to ride; the big ring up front and the small ring in the back.  If someone trys to ride off with your bike, it will be very hard for them to pedal and it will probably take them a while to either get up to speed or to shift your bike which also buys you some time.  These two things together will slow a theif down by a fair amount and give you a chance to stop them.

one can also put a tie wrap that is of a similar color as the handlebar tape which can be set to keep the brakes engaged. this can be loosely attached by the open end of the brake levers with something to keep the tie wrap from coming off when not in use.

 

this has been a successful trick of mine. not sure if anybody else does it or if there are any products designed to do this already. it won't take most people long to realize the deceit but it's so funny to watch someone fall over as they mount the bike wondering why it is so difficult to pedal.

Or you can remove the bottom bracket from your bike.  

 

That should slow the thief down.  

Cute idea. I could see where this might have value if you don't have your lock and need to run into a store for a second, but an experienced thief would notice very quickly that the wheels weren't turning freely in the course of cutting a U-lock.

shapeshifter said:

one can also put a tie wrap that is of a similar color as the handlebar tape which can be set to keep the brakes engaged. this can be loosely attached by the open end of the brake levers with something to keep the tie wrap from coming off when not in use.

 

this has been a successful trick of mine. not sure if anybody else does it or if there are any products designed to do this already. it won't take most people long to realize the deceit but it's so funny to watch someone fall over as they mount the bike wondering why it is so difficult to pedal.

Locking the rear wheel and frame vs the front wheel and frame does make a difference.

 

The rear wheel has far more value then a front wheel no matter what type of bike you ride.

the thief takes your rear wheel they can sell your wheel as a whole or just parts of it: rim, hub, gear(s) and they can take your chain while their at it. 


Kevin Conway said:

Paranoid is good-it means you're paying attention. I carry with me the added paranoia of being one of the administrators for the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry, as well as the paranoia associated with being a member of the Bicycle Recovery Collective. You have no idea how uncool it would be if my bike got lifted...

 

In keeping with my heightened sense of responsibility/paranoia, I know that in single lock thefts, 32% are locked through the front wheel and frame, but only 5% are locked through the rear wheel and frame. My rational being says that's due to 6+ times more people locking their bike only through the front wheel and frame as compared to rear wheel and frame. My paranoid/superstitious being says that where there's a difference of a factor of six, I use my best lock on the rear wheel and frame. Might not make a difference, but you never know.

Melanie said:

I'm paranoid, so I carry two U-Locks. I lock the frame and front wheel to the rack/post, as well as use the other u-lock to lock the frame and back wheel to the rack or post when possible- otherwise, I use the second lock to secure wheel to frame. I also think that a thief is more likely to pass on my bike in favor of one not locked with 2 U-locks.

A lot of great thoughts here. Thanks, I had my bike stolen last summer and learned my lesson. I took the advice on here and picked up a second U lock (which came with a cable). I'm not sure I can do much more. It's a shame we have to do so much to keep our own property.

 

After I had my bike stolen, I wished there was a way to alert other bikers that a bike was stolen from this pole, area, etc. Anyone ever think of making up stickers to put on the posts where bikes are stolen?

EPILOGUE:

It's Monday morning 5/9-four and a half days after I posted the FUN FACTS. In the time since the initial post, 8 stolen bike's have been added to the CSBR. 

1. unlocked bike in garage;

2. unlocked bike in building vestibule;

3. cable with padlock;

4. combination cable lock;

5. unlocked bike/building bike room;

6. unlocked bike/building bike room;

7. combination cable lock;

8. newer U-lock w/flat key (yes! yes!) sign it was locked to was compromised (boo!).

 

It's like I'm psychic or something...

 

It's very telling.

 

Interesting to note how a "secure" inside storage space often isn't.  Bike rooms that are not secure are like shopping malls for thieves.   One might as well tape $100 bills to the walls inside them to save them the trouble of having to carry a bike -but at least they can ride back to their crib rather than walking... 

Kevin Conway said:

EPILOGUE:

It's Monday morning 5/9-four and a half days after I posted the FUN FACTS. In the time since the initial post, 8 stolen bike's have been added to the CSBR. 

1. unlocked bike in garage;

2. unlocked bike in building vestibule;

3. cable with padlock;

4. combination cable lock;

5. unlocked bike/building bike room;

6. unlocked bike/building bike room;

7. combination cable lock;

8. newer U-lock w/flat key (yes! yes!) sign it was locked to was compromised (boo!).

 

It's like I'm psychic or something...

 

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