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Thief unbolts staple rack as stolen bike season heats up

Posted by on June 9th, 2011 at 9:35 am

Don’t become a statistic!

“The bike was secure, all tires locked down, but the thief unbolted the bike rack and took it and the bike in broad daylight.”
— Amie D.,

I don’t want to dampen anyone’s biking spirit just as we come out of the winter doldrums; but as temps warm up, so do bike thieves. Check out the chart above, which is based on our Stolen Bike Listings last year. As you can see, we’re at the cusp of an upward trend in bike theft activity.

Reader Amie D. wrote in last week with a sad tale about the lengths one thief went to to steal her bike.

“Just wanted to let you know that my bike was stolen today. The bike was secure, all tires locked down, but the thief unbolted the bike rack and took it and the bike in broad daylight (between 10am-4pm) on SW 13th and Salmon. It’s a busy street, cars moving, people walking and they were able to steal the whole sha-bang. Just wanted to give the folks out there with nice bikes a heads up!”

Racks installed by PBOT have a special
bolt (an Allen bolt with a piece that protrudes
in the middle).

Amie’s experience is concerning because Portland has thousands of staple racks. Since back in 2007 I’ve worried about the potential for the bolts that secure the racks to the ground to be loosened by thieves. Then of course last April, we shared a story of it actually happening.

I’ve asked Amie for more information about what type of bolts were used in the rack and whether or not it was an official City of Portland staple rack or not, but I haven’t heard back.

Amie’s experience shows that some thieves will stop at nothing (even using a hacksaw to cut your lock) to take your bike. Thankfully her incident is an exception. The majority of thefts are the result of using a cable lock (which is easily snipped) or leaving bikes unlocked on porches and in backyards.

Don’t let bike theft discourage you from riding. Check out a few bike theft prevention tips here.

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Comments
  • Gabriel Amadeus June 9, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Unfortunately those wrenches are still very easy to buy. Perhaps after installation the head could be filled with some epoxy like some do to their axle nuts?

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    • Chris I June 9, 2011 at 11:46 am

      great idea. Something that could be burned out with some kind of solvent if the rack needs to be moved for some reason by the City. This would make it very hard for a thief. Or racks that do not allow the locks to be slipped off.

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    • A.K. June 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

      You know, a group of enterprising “entrepreneurs”could take it upon themselves to make the racks more secure. Not that I’m suggesting anything.

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  • Dave June 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I think that’s the key to remember – if you lock your bike up reasonably, it’s unlikely to be stolen. The thief who will go to the lengths of carrying a saw or unbolting a rack is pretty rare, typically they’re looking for easy targets.

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  • Esther June 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Just a reminder for renters that you can purchase renters insurance for fairly inexpensive prices – mine is about $8.30 a month.

    And if you have insurance like mine, even though the deductible is $500, it covers “replacement” cost, not the value cost – so if my 1985 Schwinn Touring Bike, which is worth only $200-350 on Craigslist, were stolen, the insurance would actually pay for a comparable new bike as a replacement – probably around $800-1000. Yep, I would be out $500…though I would be trading up my bike.
    I think you can pay a higher premium for a lower deductible as well.

    For my really expensive bike, I also went to the trouble of doing the slightly scam-y Kryptonite Lock theft registration – if the lock itself fails and I can return the pieces to Kryptonite, then they will cover the deductible. The chances of that are somewhat slim but I figured that if my bike were stolen, and my ulock had been hacksawed, then I basically won’t have to pay a single cent to have my new bike replaced…

    This is a good reminder to
    1. WRITE DOWN YOUR SERIAL NUMBERS! I keep mine in my email, which I can access from anywhere I have internet, or 3g on my phone. Also, make, model & year.
    2. Catalogue any upgrades your bike has! Different saddles or components from what comes stock.

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    • Dave June 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

      And take a lot of photos of your bike too, especially of anything unique on it that can be used as an identifier.

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    • q`Tzal June 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      Save receipts for all parts on bike.

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    • fool June 9, 2011 at 11:21 pm

      renter’s insurance from traveller’s paid me for not only my fairly new bike, but also all the upgrades i’d put into it with minimal documentation (including receipts i created for stuff i’d bought from friends).

      best $100/year i ever spent!

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  • jocko June 9, 2011 at 10:22 am

    You can also take the “ride a crappy yet functional” bike around town. Chuang Tzu said “what is the use in uselessness?” I think that my bike is a great illustration of this.

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    • Paul in the 'couve June 9, 2011 at 11:40 am

      +1

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  • Adri C June 9, 2011 at 10:37 am

    SW 13th and Salmon street has those normal blue bike racks on the sidewalks like the one you pictured above.

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  • RH June 9, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I actually started biking less because of the April 2010 article about the racks being unbolted. Sucks that a theif can use a $5 tool to steal a bike that is locked securely to a rack.

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    • Paul in the 'couve June 9, 2011 at 11:45 am

      Please, get back to riding. The risk of theft isn’t that high if you take basic precautions. If you’re riding a really expensive bike that you can’t afford to lose, get a good beater bike for occasions when you need to lock up for longer periods of time. A bar bike! Rigid fork early 90s MTBs can be had for peanuts and are so ubiquitous and boring that they almost completely theft proof.

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      • sigard June 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm

        had a 90′s sherpa mtn bike that i used as a loaner for friends stolen from my gated back yard in vancouver a bit over a month ago. they left my cyclocross bike that was leaning on. the thief ditched the bike and made the mistake of going up a neighbor’s driveway to try to steal a fed ex delivery but got chased away. i helped persue the thief on foot for 6 blocks or so in a loop around my hood. called the police and they also saw him several times but couldn’t catch him.

        since it seems likely the thief lives near me i’m much more careful about my bikes. the nice ones stay in the house. the garage now has a sturdy lock on the side door with re-inforced door jamb and metal over the windows. i padlock the roll-up door from the inside and lock my commuter to a metal shelving system inside the garage as well.

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        • Paul in the 'couve June 9, 2011 at 7:38 pm

          I’m glad you got your beater bike back. Sorry you have to focus on so much security around your home. Also sorry you couldn’t catch the thief.

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      • captainkarma June 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm

        Haha! Call me prejudiced, or call me a victime of bike theft out of my garage. All the crack/meth heads in my neighborhood ride exactly that – rigid fork 1990s mountain bike, that I’m pretty sure they didn’t pay for at the recyclery. And where DO they get those trailers.

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        • Paul in the 'couve June 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm

          captainkarma
          Haha! Call me prejudiced, or call me a victime of bike theft out of my garage. All the crack/meth heads in my neighborhood ride exactly that – rigid fork 1990s mountain bike, that I’m pretty sure they didn’t pay for at the recyclery. And where DO they get those trailers.

          Lots of those early 90s MTBs get donated to thrift stores, charities and The Community Cycling Center. Others get left by the trash or abandoned with broken parts and get recycled. Yes probably some are stolen, but most I’d bet not. Possible the same for the trailers, but if I were homeless (being intelligent and sober) I’d sure spend any $$ I could get my hands on for some sort of bike and trailer set up.

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          • middle of the road guy June 10, 2011 at 9:24 am

            They probably pay for their crack habit from all the dividends in their financial portfolios, too.

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          • noah June 10, 2011 at 10:45 am

            middle of the road guy
            They probably pay for their crack habit from all the dividends in their financial portfolios, too.

            Sorry, were we talking about street criminals, or Californians who moved here during the housing bubble? I can’t tell.

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  • El Biciclero June 9, 2011 at 11:17 am

    In broad daylight? I guess all a thief would have to do is don an orange/yellow-stripe safety vest to appear as though they are removing bikes in some “official” capacity.

    Concerned citizen: “Hey, what are you doing with that bike rack?”

    Hard-hat-safety-vest-wearing bike thief: “Well, this rack is damaged and nobody was supposed to be parking bikes here, so we’re just going to take it to the city lot and the owner can claim it there.”

    Concerned Citizen: “Oh, I see.”

    Hard-hat-safety-vest-wearing bike thief: “You have a nice day, now…”

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    • q`Tzal June 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm

      Why would a thief need to try that hard?
      Most people will ignore a mugging and tell themselves they never saw anything.

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    • Richard Masoner June 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      cf Neistat Brothers’ 2007 video in which they steal bikes with power tools in broad daylight. Nobody does a thing.

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  • bhance June 9, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Adding to Esther’s comment above – take a couple good photos of any unique scratches, dings, etc. on your bike – the little things that most people would miss on a quick visual inspection. Thieves are getting really good at masking or grinding off serials, and these also help w/ identification..

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  • J- June 9, 2011 at 11:44 am

    This points to a clear and easily fixed design flaw in staple racks. A crossbar on the bottom connecting the two legs of the staple would at least help a bit, as would truly tamper resistant bolts, rather than those that require merely a different readily available tool. They make fasteners that are uni-directional; they can be tightened with a tool, but must be drilled out for removal. But I think this is evidence : if a thief wants it badly enough, they will get it.

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  • Case June 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I think this is an appropriate place to post this: http://www.bikerevolution.org/

    I have a bike registered with this site. They hold all of your information for you, serial number and such, and your personal contact information. The authorities can access it and if you just register on the site it’s free! If you want to get the cool Pulse ID tag, (if the cops recover the bike they can smart phone the tag and your information will come up), they’re available at bike shops for around $15. Not too much when you think of the cost of replacement. I know I’ve seen them at 21st Ave Bikes. They can tell you all about it in person!

    Matt Case

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  • Adri C June 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I just saw the area of 13th and salmon where the bike was stolen. From the looks of the sidewalk, the bike rack was dragged off the side of the sidewalk. It was one of the blue staple bike racks like is pictured above. That person must really have wanted to steal that bike.

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  • fasterthanme June 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I still see quite a number of folks using crummy cable locks and locks through wheels (instead of the frame). People gots to wise up.

    There are still a lot of bike racks around town that are bolted more securely.

    As an article in the past reported someone cutting through the bar. What the hecks do you do now?

    They really want your bike? They’re gonna get it. :(

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  • Eric June 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Same thing happened to me in the basement of my old apartment on NW 21st. Thieves unbolted the rack from the floor. Tack welding the bolt after installing would help and can be easily ground off if the rack needs to be removed.

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  • justin June 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    sounds like something i read today.

    http://gothamist.com/2011/06/09/video_thieves_cut_down_tree_with_ax.php

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  • Racer X June 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    It’s best to park near bikes less well secured than yours – lock Darwinism. Sad as that sounds.

    Perhaps the bike mayor should have a bike security press conference on what the City will do to address this threat to their modal plans.

    Time for us citizens to call our commissioners and press for action!!! Where is PBoT on this?!

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  • captainkarma June 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    How about this: If a person is in official capacity with the city, or is the actual owner of the bike being removed, he/she should not object to being photographed. Who does not have a cell phone with a camera, raise your hand. Since coming upon someone up on Tabor busting into cars, I have practiced flipping my phone out and pressing whatever sequence needs to be pressed to get to the camera. (< 3 seconds). You could even do it surreptitiously, like you were texting. And gee, maybe even calling 911 would be an idea. Maybe the cops won't respond immediately, but often they will. Imprint a description on your brain of pants, shirt, jacket color, hair & skin color, any vehicle involved; color, plate number etc.

    If someone is messing with a bike/rack other than unlocking with key or combo, they probably ARE stealing it. Even just watching them will often make them take off w/o the swag.

    Maybe word will get out that Portlanders care about each other enough so that it is not a good idea to attempt to steal one of their bikes in broad daylight. Sigh.

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    • El Biciclero June 10, 2011 at 11:01 am

      [Not raising hand]

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  • Todd Boulanger June 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Perhaps the best on street rack to park at for this summer will be the instreet corrals.

    I hope it’s not going to be a 3 lock summer. :-(

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  • malka June 10, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Maybe passersby assumed no one would be so brash as to try to steal a bike in broad daylight, so they figured it must have been the bike owner, who lost the key to his lock and was going to extreme measures to retrieve his bike.

    Factor in, too, the liberal attitude throughout society (especially Portland) that no one has a right to call into question someone’s actions, no matter how suspect. Look the other way, mind your own business, to each his own, etc.

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  • paul June 10, 2011 at 10:37 am

    pdot could start by adopting a tamper resistant bolt that doesn’t take a hex bit, drill press and 5 minutes to clone.

    i lost my keys once, made an absolute show of sawing the lock in broad daylight just to see. no one cared, the police didn’t even give a double take.

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  • John Landolfe June 10, 2011 at 11:12 am

    When we installed racks, we went with racks welded to a bottom slat specifically out of concern for this kind of issue. Ours are just held down by gravity (4 staples to a unit), which wouldn’t be practical for most City streets. But it’s a good solution for businesses because there’s no installation required and with a few able bodies you can move them per changing need/demand.

    Our main theft issues come from thieves cutting into cable locks. There’s not really a cable lock thick enough to protect a bike (speaking from personal experience). They should be retired from the market.

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    • was carless June 13, 2011 at 12:10 am

      Burgundy are good for front wheels. 15years and no stolen bikes yet!

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