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9 bikes stolen in 12 hours: A bike theft update

Posted by on November 24th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

sad sight
A snipped cable lock spotted a few
weeks ago near SE Belmont and 34th.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

For some reason there seems to be a rash of bike thefts happening in Portland right now. I just noticed that we’ve had nine bicycles listed as stolen in Portland in the past 12 hours alone. I can’t confirm it without a bit more research, but I think it’s safe to say this is a record number of listings for a 12-hour period.

What’s going on? Are thieves trying to make a few quick bucks before Black Friday? Has a bike theft ring set up shop in Portland? Are thieves in need of transportation to visit their families for Thanksgiving? It’s hard to tell.

The good news is that there’s an easy way to prevent this happening to you; lock your bike with a u-lock! From following stolen bikes in this city for several years, my hunch is that most bikes are stolen from porches and backyards where they’re not locked up at all. Another way to become a bike theft victim is to use a cable lock.

Story continues below

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So, let this rash of thefts be a reminder to lock it or lose it.

In other bike theft news, I was recently paid a visit by Portland Police Bureau Bicycle Liaison Officer Robert Pickett. Pickett, myself, and our bike theft software guru Bryan Hance from StolenBicycleRegistry.com are joining forces to improve the listings for local police officers. If all goes according to plan, Portland Police vehicles will have live, searchable access to BikePortland’s Stolen Bike listings via their on-board, web-enabled computer screens. Thieves beware!

If you want to help us track down stolen bikes, follow @StolenBikesPDX on Twitter and keep your eyes peeled.

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Comments
  • Paul November 24, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    And my new Brooks saddle vanished in front of City Hall today! Grrrrrrr.

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  • John Lascurettes November 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Instead of a U-lock, I use a super-covenient frame lock with plug-in chain; that is, when my bike is not in my locked garage at home or the key-carded bike locker at work.

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  • naomi November 25, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Ugh I have a brooks saddle and hate hearing that someone is snatching them up :( Thieves should burn in hell

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  • are November 25, 2009 at 1:49 am

    and run the u-lock through the rear wheel, don’t just hang it over the top tube.

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  • BigMarty November 25, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Definitely lock your rear wheel. I don’t have an expensive bike, but I found out how expensive it is to replace your wheels if you don’t lock them. The back one is the worst of the two.

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  • noah November 25, 2009 at 4:09 am

    Is it common for unsecured wheels and saddles to be stolen when they aren’t the quick-release type?

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  • buglas November 25, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Here is some expert advice from the late Sheldon Brown about locking up.

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  • Stacy Westbrook November 25, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Noah – My not-quick release saddle was stolen outside my office a couple of years ago. And someone tried to make off with my locked-up front wheel at the same location.

    So, yes.

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  • Tim L. November 25, 2009 at 7:00 am

    My wife’s 10 year old Da Vinci was stolen from in front of her gym at SE Hawthorne and 17th at 5:45 am yesterday!!! I guess the tweakers are carrying their bolt cutters 24/7 these days.

    It’s at times like these I really hope that karma works. I hope her bike was worth a few more black pock marks.

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  • Donna November 25, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Paul – you’re the 5th person I’ve heard about in the last couple of months who has had their Brooks stolen off their bike. I’m curious – was it quick release?

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  • John L November 25, 2009 at 8:02 am

    My problem with thieves today is that none of them have any class. Whatever happened to stealing from the rich?

    I want men in tights on horseback redistributing wealth. Now that’s classy!

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  • Anonymous November 25, 2009 at 8:26 am

    @ John L – Lupins! Lupins!

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  • dan November 25, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Re: Brooks saddle theft…this is blaming the victim, I know, but why would you put an expensive/trendy saddle on a bike that isn’t always stored in a secure location? Something cheaper will cradle your bum almost as well, and unless you’re in the saddle all day long, you won’t notice a difference.

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  • Alan November 25, 2009 at 8:54 am

    There are few things sadder than emerging from a long day at work to find a broken U lock on the ground…where your bicycle used to be. What’s the solution? Maybe a folder?

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  • rex November 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Yes, please do use better locks, that will ensure that your neighbor’s bike gets stolen instead of yours. What an excellent community based solution.

    Better locks are an arms race. If history shows us anything about an arms race, it shows that it wastes resources and ultimately fails to solve the problem.

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  • El Biciclero November 25, 2009 at 9:41 am

    “Better locks are an arms race. If history shows us anything about an arms race, it shows that it wastes resources and ultimately fails to solve the problem.” –rex

    So what would solve the problem?

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  • Stig3 November 25, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I saw a recent video of a bike thief in action.

    He wore a bike helmet, sunglasses, commuter style clothing, messenger bag with his tools of the trade. Short handle bolt cutters for cable locks and a battery powered dremel for U-locks. He’d be able to steal 99% of reasonably secured bikes in a few minutes.

    Good opportunity for PoPo to gain some respect if they put out some bait bikes and catch some of these guys. Shame any bike thief caught would be released same-day as a non-violent offender. Even drunk drivers who kill get same-day releases as we’ve recently seen in the news.

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  • Racer X November 25, 2009 at 10:02 am

    How about the [Portland] city installing those prepaid electronic card accessed bike lockers [www.bikelink.org, etc] in commercial areas with highest theft rates?

    Carrying a 2 oz. card is better than having to carry a second 5 lbs. lock.

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  • Ryan G. November 25, 2009 at 10:13 am

    I really like Brooks saddles and have been wanting to get one but I decided that, as often as they are stolen around here, I might as well use the saddle that I have.

    Interestingly, when cycling advocates discuss barriers to getting people commuting more, lots of things come up- weather, safety, helmet hair, sweaty clothes- the list goes on. But I never hear fear of theft mentioned by advocates as part of that list. I do however hear it from coworkers and (non-cycling) friends and acquaintances. Am I the only one who hears this?

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  • jv November 25, 2009 at 10:13 am

    “So what would solve the problem?”

    As someone who had their garage door broken down by force earlier in the year (they kicked the deadbolted door open) and two bikes + tools stolen, I am afraid that there is not much that you can really do to deter a motivated/ drugged thief. I now lock my bikes up even when they are in the garage…I have a big trucker chain that goes around the rafters and then U-lock to that. The only solution is : Don’t buy bikes or parts from sketchy people ! Make it a point to ask a seller how they acquired the item and use your intuition – if it is too good too be true it is probably stolen. Though or course it can be hard to tell…and the market is so big that there will always be buyers. I also try not to have things that are too nice stored outside the house – my car get rifled through on a regular basis but there is nothing worth stealing in there.

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  • Alex November 25, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I just moved back to Portland in September after 3 years in London, and 3 of my friends have had bikes stolen here in that time.

    Bike theft is huge in London, so I always carried 2 locks with me – a big U lock and a big chain/padlock combo. Heavy, to be sure, but nobody ever f-ed with my bike. Most thieves only carry the tools to deal with one type of lock at a time.

    I also use two locks here – a U lock for the back wheel and frame, and a cable lock for the front wheel and frame. Not a total guarantee against theft, to be sure, but certainly a deterrent.

    Somewhat related to this, I heard a rumor in London that thieves were using liquid nitrogen on U locks, which seemed like a bit of a myth to me, but it looks like it’s possible: http://www.creekcats.com/pnprice/bikelock.html

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  • Wade November 25, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Carrying heavy bike locks not only improves the security of your bicycle, but in the long run will improve your health and fitness. Check out Hal, impressively ripped and svelte and wise in all matters related to bicycle security.

    http://www.streetfilms.org/hal-grades-your-bike-locking/

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  • ray November 25, 2009 at 11:15 am

    i’m pretty sure the worst bike theft is in eugene even though they have less people than portland, i believe this is because of college age bike thieves that traffic bikes between eugene corvallis and maybe portland. maybe kids home for the holiday going on a tear?

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  • metropoliscycles November 25, 2009 at 11:32 am

    This is pretty much preaching to the choir, but never use a cable as your primary lock. The picture at the top of the story says it all. As to Brooks saddle theft, I’m not surprised. An entry level version is $110, and they go up from there. Anybody with an Allen wrench set can steal your saddle and seatpost(worth another $20-200) in 5 seconds and saddles are essentially untraceable. If I locked my $200 saddle equipped bike up anywhere downtown for more than 10 minutes, I would just take the saddle with me. It takes you just as long to remove it as a thief.

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  • Ryan G. November 25, 2009 at 11:44 am

    #24 mentioned taking your saddle with you when you leave your bike. I agree that’s probably a good idea even if you don’t have a Brooks- I’ve had two cheesy saddles and seat posts stolen off my old beater commuter bike. But this is right along the lines of what I was saying about theft being a deterrent to riding (comment 19). For those of us who are year-round cyclists, it’s not going to stop us. But to someone who is just getting started (or thinking of getting started) it’s just one more thing. They’re thinking, “First I need to get my bike fixed up, then I need to get all this rain gear, then I need a $30-50 U-Lock, plus a cable, and now I have to carry a special tool and take my saddle and seat post- as well as everything else like lights, etc.- off everytime I go in a building? Oh f–k it, I’m just going to drive.”

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  • rrandom rider November 25, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I have a question about the Sheldon Brown strategy: is he suggesting that the cable lock goes through the front tire, the frame and the staple/post/whatever you’re locking to while the U-lock connects just the back wheel to the frame? This seems counter intuitive since a cable lock is more easily broken than a U-lock. Is the idea that it is better to give up a front tire to a determined thief and that they would be less likely to take the bike if the rear wheel cannot rotate?

    It is not always feasible to lock both the front and rear wheels to a staple or post, so if I have to choose what goes around the post between the U-lock, rear wheel and frame or the cable, front wheel and frame, which is the better option?

    This is an interesting article and has convinced me to swap my quick-release seat post for one that requires an allen wrench. While that isn’t particularly secure without yet another cable lock, the difference between zero effort to steal my mediocre post and saddle vs. minimal effort to get them might be enough to determine the laze thief.

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  • Quentin November 25, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Kryptonite New York lock for the frame and front wheel, Kryptonite Evolution for the rear wheel with a cable loop through the saddle rails = peace of mind. Superglue a ball bearing in the hex bolt of the seat collar so a thief can’t use a hex wrench to remove the seat post/saddle. No lock is 100% secure, but this setup is about as good as it gets if you have to leave your bike in public.

    It takes a few extra minutes to park your bike with two locks, but I don’t have much sympathy for anyone who is complacent about bike security.

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  • dgc November 25, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Another possible solution to the seat/post theft issue is to change from allen head bolts/nuts to star drive or torx drive. At least that makes the thief carry more tools.

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  • bhance November 25, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I’m waiting for one of the lock vendors to come out with a triple-thickness U-lock.

    I think most of the current lock attacks would fail if there was a full inch of steel on the U portion instead of half or three quarters. It would weigh about twenty five pounds but it would certainly be intimidating.

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  • El Biciclero November 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    rrandom: “I have a question about the Sheldon Brown strategy: is he suggesting that the cable lock goes through the front tire, the frame and the staple/post/whatever you’re locking to while the U-lock connects just the back wheel to the frame?”

    As far as I understand the SB locking strategy, he recommends putting the U-lock around the rim of the rear wheel and the post/rack. As long as the rear wheel is locked inside the rear triangle of the frame, the thief would have to either remove the rear wheel and then pull the entire bike rack through the rear triangle of your frame (near impossible, I would bet) or they would have to actually cut through the rear wheel/tire, which is also nearly impossible because spoke tension on the rim would theoretically bind any cutting blade before it could get through (unless they cut all the spokes first). OR they have to break the lock, which always works.

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  • cyclist November 25, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    El Biciclero #30:

    Couldn’t they just cut the lock?

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  • El Biciclero November 25, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    “Couldn’t they just cut the lock?”

    Well, yeah. NO strategy works if a thief can defeat the lock. That’s why at the end of my comment I said, “OR they have to break the lock, which always works.”

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  • rrandom rider November 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Remember, you don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your hiking partner.

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  • rex November 25, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    El Biciclero (#16), There is no single solution. Once you have a locking technology that keeps honest people honest, there are dozens of ways to improve the situation. I could easily come up with a 1000 words or so of solutions better than sending more money to arrogant lock manufactures. The comments section is not the place for that.

    rrandom rider (#33) succinctly summarizes the amoral position encouraged by stronger locks. It is not wrong and it is effective, but it is not ethically supportable.

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  • steve scarich November 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Maybe someone has mentioned this already, but I use Control Tech allen bolt skewers, not quick releases on my wheels. I know that there are also some heavier duty non quick release anti-theft skewars on the market. You do have to remember to carry the correct removal tool in your bag in case you get a flat.
    btw, when I lived in Eugene, I had three (or was it 4?) bikes stolen. there was a ring of thieves who met every morning at the Red Barn to sell their booty…a friend of mine confronted them once, kicked some ass, but eventually got his kicked.

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  • twistyaction November 25, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    I use locking skewers, headset cap, and seat post binder bolt. Much lighter than additional cables or locks. I don’t know why more folks don’t use them.

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  • Lisa G November 25, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    This is why bike parking needs to be able to accomodate a secure method of locking for all bikes, including those with larger tires and front suspensions, which means two points to lock to allowing frame-through-wheel locking at both points. The standard staple provides this. Many of the fancy, artsy racks, in addition to the wave style racks and the minimalist ones, do not. There have been many times where the lack of secure parking has caused me to take transit rather than ride. Better safe than sorry. I use three locks, a u-lock, a medium chain and a thick cable and they secure anything that is potentially stealable on my bike, wheels, rack and even the water bottle holder. Racks should be tested for security before they are put up, especially at private businesses. For example, the Radio Room has around twenty staples that are unuseable because they are too close to the cement wall.

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  • are November 25, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    well, rex, you are not suggesting i just don’t lock the bike at all, or are you? ’cause i mean, someone maybe can’t afford a lock. i use a fairly ordinary u-lock with a cable, the sheldon brown setup, and my bike does not give an appearance of being much worth stealing — lugged steel road frame, downtube friction shifters, non-aero brake hoods, all kinda stickers all over it, etc. the logic of your argument does imply that bike lockers are wrong, sort of in the way the penthouse condo with the doorman is wrong (not everyone can have it), but i mean, not everyone can have my low-end bike. unless i just leave it unlocked . . .

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  • Stig6 November 25, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Stronger locks are somehow unethical and the lock manufacturers are evil corporations for profiting from crime prevention?

    We don’t live in fairy land where honor systems are possible. How about accepting that the purchase of a lock is a personal choice and the value of your bike and how risky an area you leave it in are major factors in your decision?

    Don’t feed the bears. Secure it well or consider getting a folder and take it with you.

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  • Donna November 25, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Dan (#13): Maybe because for some people, riding a bicycle without a Brooks saddle is an experience in sublime physical misery. If you don’t have that problem, be grateful for your superior bone/tissue structure.

    Are there any local stores that sell the Pitlock locking skewers or am I stuck with online mail order from Peter White in NH?

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  • Dennis Kelly November 25, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    There is at least one system besides Pitlock called pinhead which is similar to Pitlock as it uses a unique key system for locking wheel skewers seat locks and headset lock (4 pack). Much less expensive than Pitlock, but I haven’t seen any comparisons. Can be had locally though.

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  • Matti November 25, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Another strategy for Brooks owners is to carry along a rain cover (I like the stretchy Aardvark, about $10-$15). I use it when I park outside for any length of time for weather protection and the side benefit of hiding the nice, broken-in saddle under a cheesy-looking disguise.

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  • rex November 25, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    are, thanks for reading my comment with a critical eye. Your skills are legend.

    Stig6, stronger locks are only unethical if your intent is to burden your neighbor because you have a better lock, and thus her bike gets stolen in lieu of yours. And, uhm, I do not live in fairy land, I am down at least $5,000 in bikes over the last few decades.

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  • Snowflake Seven November 25, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Step 1: Watch Hal Grading Bike Locks (preferably both videos). He knows what he is talking about.

    Step 2: Carry a a heavy-duty u-lock *and* a heavy duty chain lock with sleeve. One lock per wheel. Each wheel locked to the frame. Both locked to the rack if possible.

    Step 3: lock to something that is well beyond easy to disassemble. (See Hal’s explanation of why you shouldn’t lock to short sign posts.)

    I lock my bike to the rack and both of my wheels to the bike with separate locks. Yes. it takes me an extra 30-seconds to lock-up but its well worth it.

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  • Jeff November 26, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Paid parking lots downtown should provide secure bike parking near the attendants booth. I would be willing to pay $1 for a secure bike parking space. 10 Bikes would probably pencil out better than than the one car though would occupy the space. I made this suggestion to PBOT, maybe they’ll reconsider?

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  • Donna November 26, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Regarding Pitlock versus Pinhead, a friend of mine has this to say:

    “I’ve used both Pinhead and Pitlock and find the Pitlock to be a much better designed product and easier to use. Changing a flat with Pitlocks is very easy, all you do is loosen the nut with a coded socket. Pinhead provides you with a coded key which tends to slip.

    My Pinhead skewers rusted. My Pitlock haven’t. Pitlock also provides you with to keys while Pinhead only gives you one.”

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  • craig November 30, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Accessory cables are needed to protect your seat, and any other items that can be removed with regular tools in under 2 minutes. Loop the cable to your frame or u-lock.

    Thieves don’t need privacy, speed, or stealth in order to do their thieving. And they don’t look like theives. They just have to look confident and act like they belong there, and every passer-by will unquestioningly assume that a bike owner is performing some needed maintenance.

    My not-quick-release (allen-bolt) seat was stolen from my locked bike, at the bike racks in front of my busy office building in the Lloyd district, along with my attached tool kit–$160 in total replacements. This was during the busiest foot-traffic period for that area (lunch hour) on a sunny summer weekday afternoon, with dozens of people around.

    Would you have questioned him?

    EVERYONE PLEASE QUESTION EVERY PERSON YOU SEE WHO IS MESSING WITH ANY BIKE. Snap a foto of them first with your cell phone. No need to be sneaky about it. Watch and see if they unlock it. If they don’t, mention that they look like they’re stealing. They’ll probably laugh and joke it off. Ask them to show you their ID and let you snap a foto of it with your cell phone. If they own the bike, they should proove it and then thank you. If they protest, call 911 right there while they watch.

    Assume everyone at a parked bike is a thief.

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  • well rex? December 1, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    @rex

    Stig6, stronger locks are only unethical if your intent is to burden your neighbor because you have a better lock, and thus her bike gets stolen in lieu of yours. And, uhm, I do not live in fairy land, I am down at least $5,000 in bikes over the last few decades.

    you failed to answer address his point in #39. Why doesn’t a more expensive bike justify a higher quality, more expensive lock?

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  • El Biciclero December 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    “EVERYONE PLEASE QUESTION EVERY PERSON YOU SEE WHO IS MESSING WITH ANY BIKE. Snap a foto of them first with your cell phone. No need to be sneaky about it. Watch and see if they unlock it. If they don’t, mention that they look like they’re stealing. They’ll probably laugh and joke it off. Ask them to show you their ID and let you snap a foto of it with your cell phone. If they own the bike, they should proove it and then thank you. If they protest, call 911 right there while they watch.

    Assume everyone at a parked bike is a thief.”

    A little ridiculous. I pop down from my office to get things out of my seat bag from time to time (office mate needs some tire patch glue or a tool, maybe I have enough spare change in there for a coke(tm), whatever). Sometimes I’ve forgotten to take my lights off and I have to go back down to get them. It might “look like I am stealing”, but there is no way I am going to let some stranger take a photo of my ID to post anywhere on the internet they see fit! Can you say, “identity theft?” Anybody who thinks they want to call 911 because I refuse to allow my ID to be photographed by a stranger is welcome to suffer the consequences of crank-calling 911. How exactly should I “prove” that I own my bike? What if I left my lock key up at my desk? I’ll be the one calling 911 when somebody thinks they recognize my photo from dirtyrottenbiketheives.com and decides to mete out a little street justice. All ‘cuz I wanted a Coke(tm).

    There’s “community”, and then there’s extreme.

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