Bike theft on the rise, is RFID the solution?

Posted by on July 10th, 2007 at 12:52 pm

The lock selection at Citybikes.
(File photo)

Yesterday a record ten bikes were listed on the BikePortland Stolen Bike Listings, bringing July’s total to 30.

In May, 80 bikes were listed and June would have topped that if the listings hadn’t broken after my server crash.

Portland was recently named one of the “Top Ten” worst cities for bike theft in America.

Bike theft has been an ongoing problem in Portland and despite attention from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and collaborative efforts with the PPB and PDOT to increase education about prevention, it shows no signs of going away any time soon.

Short of an ordinance that would outlaw cable locks (which account for the vast majority of thefts), I’m not sure how to solve the problem.

Are RFID tags
the solution?
(Image: Brian Hance)

One idea that holds promise comes from bike theft guru and founder of StolenBicycleRegistry.com, Brian Hance. He recently published an article titled, “Open Source Bike Recovery – On The Cheap” that details how the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags could be a, “simple low-cost solution”.

Hance says that RFID is already used to find lost pets and he wants a similar system for bicycles.

He lays out a potential example of how the system would work:

“Imagine a local police impound warehouse – where most stolen bikes end up, sooner or later. If they could be provided with a handheld RFID reader, the entire process would be something like:

1) Police point the reader at a bike (or pile of bikes)
2) The reader grabs any serial numbers from the RFID chip inside the bike
3) The reader uses 3G or EDGE to transmit these serials to the ownership database
4) The database returns a “Stolen/Not Stolen” reply
5) If it’s stolen, the database notifies the owner via email, including pickup/contact info
6) All scanning and tracking results are available to the police via secure web-based admin
7) Recovery and pickup are left to the owner”

Hance has the smarts to develop the system, he just needs a bit of help to get started:

“All the technology exists, and is just waiting to be plugged together…For now, we just need some people to dive in and start building.”

If you’d like to connect with Hance and make something happen, send him at email at bhance at gmail dot com.

…and in the meantime, don’t use a cable lock!

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you β€” Jonathan

78 Comments
  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    don’t use a cable lock!

    That about sums it up. Instead of turning to RFID as a first resort, save some of your Saturday night beer money and buy a real lock.

    Then, if you STILL feel the need to do more to protect your bike, RFID sounds like the next wave in protection. The only drawback to RFID is that it only works if the cops have the scanners, and are willing to use them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dave July 10, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    I don\’t remember if it was on this site or some other site, but didn\’t someone create a sticker/postcard that had proper bike locking instructions. It would be great if we all could carry a few of those with us, and leave them on bikes that were only locked with a cable.

    If such a thing doesn\’t exist, maybe someone could make a simple card that we could print at home/work and cut into smaller sizes. I\’d create one, but my graphic design skills are pretty abysmal. The card could say something like, \”I\’m worried that your bike might get stolen. A cable lock is not an effective theft deterrent.\” and include instructions on how to properly lock a bike. I see tons of bikes at my local grocery stores only locked with cables. I\’d be willing to put a couple of postcards on some to these bikes.

    Let\’s all work together to get the word out on how to properly lock a bike.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dave July 10, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Would the tags work inside a bike frame? The inside of metal tubing, especially steel, isn\’t going to be the most RF-friendly environment. Anywhere outside the tubing, and they\’re trivial for a thief to remove.

    I ask because I do not know.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    mike July 10, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    It\’s important that on the backend, only a stolen/not stolen flag is sent back to the police, so all personal info of the owner is kept secure. Assuming this, it sounds like a good system.

    What\’s nice is that it is passive scanning. So a local bike shop could have a discreet reader near the door. If someone comes in with a bike that triggers the \”stolen\” tag, the bike owner could be mailed with the location AND a subtle indicator could alert the store owner, and the store owner could call the police.

    Start adding scanners at bike parking areas and other bike-friendly businesses and soon you\’ll be getting messages from your stolen bike as it travels around the city.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Bryan Hance July 10, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    There are, indeed, different kinds of tags that worth through various metals, glass, liquids, etc. And yes, the best place is certainly inside the tube somewhere hard/impossible to reach – and out of sight.

    Thing is, I\’m no RFID expert – so nailing down which tags are going to work with which readers in a manner that\’s acceptable is all part of the reason I put out the call for comments.

    The bigger idea I\’m pushing is to tie the readers into a recovery network (I\’ll spare the gory, geeky tech details) in such a way that all the recovering party has to do is point the reader, pull the trigger, and then let the system handle the rest – owner notification, tracking, etc.

    I\’d like to get the system specs tested, nailed down, and put the framework out there – and then open the whole thing in such a way that whoever wants a reader can get a reader and participate – cops, shops, individuals, campuses, whoever.

    -bhance

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    tonyt July 10, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    As a former mechanic, I\’d like to see the scanners offered to shops, much like the pet scanners are offered to vets.

    Vets can scan a pet that\’s brought in to make sure that it hasn\’t been reported stolen.

    When I was working at shops, there were many times when someone would come in with a bike that we suspected was stolen and we\’d scramble to try to find out what was up.

    A stolen bike can live out on the streets quite a while before it ends up in the hands of a cop. Most bikes come through shops much more often.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Matthew July 10, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Why wait for it to end up in the impound warehouse? It would probably be trashed by then anyways. Put RFID readers in strategic places around the city, (the bridges, popular bike routes, etc,) and have it read every RFID that goes by… When a stolen RFID is detected, it [the RFID reader] could light up with flashing lights and a siren, and then the people around would just have to look for the person with the guilty look on their face, and grab him… Bike theft would immediately disappear if the criminals knew they\’d be caught in the act. (Or at least until bike thieves started carrying RFID readers, and only stole unchipped bikes, or took the bike around the corner and located and removed the chip before riding away…)

    The big brother possibilities of such a system are endless, too. In fact, we could probably convince the FBI or the NSA or someone to install the thing for us for free, just so that they could have access to all that data on our everyone\’s movement… Okay, maybe I\’m a little paranoid. But I\’m still gonna stick to my U-locks.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    The big brother possibilities of such a system are endless, too.

    http://tinyurl.com/2pwf6a

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    BillD July 10, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Dave #2,
    There was a thread in the BikePortland forums a while back.

    http://bikeportland.org/forum/showpost.php?p=3355&postcount=17

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    BillD July 10, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Jonathan,
    Do you collect statistics on how many stolen bikes are locked with cables? If it\’s a significant amount, the best approach might be to convince people not to use cable locks.
    I wouldn\’t support a new law banning such locks but maybe the local bike store owners could be convinced not to sell them. Since a cable is only slightly more secure than no lock at all, dealers are not doing their customers a favor by selling them a cable.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    ian July 10, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    I like the idea of cards, but not just to put on bikes. Make a POP(point of purchase) display and give them to retailers. When I worked in bike shops and would tell people not to buy a cable, instead to buy a u-lock many would think I was just trying to get them to buy something more expensive.
    I think if there was a \”bike portland\” guide to locking your bike, with stats on how many bikes are stolen with cable locks, people would listen. and the shops would do it, ciz they wouold sell more expensive locks.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Number one factor in stolen bike reports: Bike was left unlocked for \”just a minute.\”

    Number two factor: Bike was locked with a cable lock.

    Number three factor: Bike was locked improperly.

    A city-wide bike theft public education campaign is sorely needed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 10, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    \”Do you collect statistics on how many stolen bikes are locked with cables? \”

    Yes.

    This is one of the reasons I partnered up with Finetoothcog… so we could gather more data that my tech. skills allowed.

    Michael has a field for such info – view this listing to see for yourself.

    I\’ll have Michael run a report for the last few months…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    felix July 10, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    RFID is the devil! First Walmart, then bikes, then you. Don\’t fall for it!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Coop July 10, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    When I bought my first nice bike in Portland a few years back I purchased a cable lock with the same transaction (naive out of towner). I locked it like that for about a week before somebody saw me and my a cable at a store and wised me up. In retrospect I cannot believe the bike shop let me out of the store. There could definitely be better education at the source.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Logan 5 July 10, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Passive chips only work with a reader located up to at most a meter or two away. More practical is just a foot or so. So I don\’t think automatic scanning of people riding by would be feasible. And I don\’t think they would work well through metal. A chip could easily be put under say, a heavy logo plate though which tend to be plastic, etc. Criminals could easily get a scanner though (I have one) but I seriously doubt there are professional bike theft rings that would go to such lengths.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    This is what\’s already available in the UK:

    http://www.datatag.co.uk/

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Matt Picio July 10, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    \”Passive chips only work with a reader located up to at most a meter or two away. More practical is just a foot or so. So I don\’t think automatic scanning of people riding by would be feasible.\”

    At this time, and at this price point. Current technology supports detection at longer distances, it\’s just more expensive.

    No thanks. The potential abuses outweigh the risks. Newer, more, better, more capable – does not necessarily equal higher quality of life.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Logan 5 July 10, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks Matt, that\’s pretty much what I meant but didn\’t write it well. If our cops are still using radar (not lidar), then I figure they probably don\’t have the money for high-end RFID readers. So it\’s not something I see happening for quite a while.

    And I\’m definitely NOT for it. As a rough example of privacy issues, imagine two reader units on opposite sides of Ladd\’s Circle. Measuring the time difference between reads would easily determine how fast someone went through and if they stopped or not. Doesn\’t sound so good anymore!

    Also, comparing the situation to domestic pets is not really the best way of explaining the situation. I\’m going to guess that most lost pets are found by the staff at common shelters where scanning is routine. People use stolen bikes but try to get rid of (and return) lost pets.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    jeff July 10, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    (slighty off-topic, sorry): low-fi-non-rfid trick: write all of your contact information along with \”this bike was stolen\” on a peice of tape, and attach it to the outside of the steerer tube inside the head tube. if the bike gets stolen and ends up in a shop for an overhaul, it might be noticed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    TM July 10, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Could someone e-mail me what kind of lock I\’m supposed to get? Right now I\’ve been using a chain with a padlock (haha – lame, I know). I was going to buy a cable lock that could wind through my wheels and frame (and helmet?). So now I won\’t but .. what $25 or so lock should I buy?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    specialK July 10, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Dang. I sure hope you guys don\’t discourage all the cable lockers out there. I consider locking up (w/ a good lock) next to them one of the better forms of bike security! πŸ™‚

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Dang. I sure hope you guys don\’t discourage all the cable lockers out there. I consider locking up (w/ a good lock) next to them one of the better forms of bike security! πŸ™‚

    True, if everybody starts locking up properly, some of us will lose one of our best security devices. πŸ˜€

    Could someone e-mail me what kind of lock I\’m supposed to get? Right now I\’ve been using a chain with a padlock (haha – lame, I know). I was going to buy a cable lock that could wind through my wheels and frame (and helmet?). So now I won\’t but .. what $25 or so lock should I buy?

    You need a u-lock. Look at the Kryptonite locks, they have security ratings on the package. The best ones go for $90, lower security models are available for less money. You get what you pay for, and you might have to bust that $25 budget, but you can still get a good quality lock– not the best quality, but good quality– for close to your budget.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jeff July 10, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    TM — your best bet is probably any Kryptonite U-lock with a straight (non-tubular) key. The Kryptonite locks each come with a \”guarantee\” indicating how much replacement value coverage they will provide if the bike is stolen while locked with it. While I\’ve heard it\’s pretty difficult to actually get them to pony up, it at least provides a useful scale for how easy it is to defeat each lock….

    Save the cable lock for locking your bike\’s wheels to its frame, if you want — if possible, the best way to lock your bike is by passing one leg of the lock on either side of the rear rim and around a pole or bike rack, making sure to keep the lock inside the rear triangle (or including the seat tube or a stay within the lock).

    http://sheldonbrown.com/lock-strategy.html

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    In addition to using a proper lock, you also need to use proper locking technique. Here\’s how:

    http://sheldonbrown.com/lock-strategy.html

    http://www.mechbgon.com/lock/index.html

    * Never lock to something that can be easily disassembled (for example, with a wrench).

    * Never lock to wooden railing or a tree– they can be and have been cut.

    * Never lock to a chain link fence– they can be and have been cut.

    * Never lock to a pole that is anchored in dirt– they can be and have been lifted out of the ground.

    * Never lock to a sign pole– the bike can be lifted over the top of the pole once the signs are removed (and watch out for \”sucker poles\”– a pole that has been cut or unbolted at the bottom and can be easily lifted once you\’ve locked up and walked away).

    * Always lock to a pole that is firmly anchored to the ground, preferably in cement.

    * Always lock up in a well-lit, well-traveled location.

    * Always lock up near bikes that are locked with cable locks (the thief will pass your better lock by in favor of the cable lock.).

    * Never leave your bike locked up outside overnight– bring it in.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    tonyt July 10, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    TM,

    I second rixtir\’s comment, you get what you pay for. Buy the best lock you can afford, really. It\’ll last for years and years and pay for itself with the theft that doesn\’t happen.

    There are three levels to Kryptonite locks, grey (good), orange (better), and yellow (best).

    Go at least with the orange if you can. They temper the metal in such a way that it resists cutting AND breaking.

    Probably the best thing you can learn to do is take the front wheel off and put it back on. Once you get it down, it really shouldn\’t take you more than 10-15 seconds to take it off, set it by the frame and rear wheel and run the u-lock through the whole thing.

    http://www.missinglink.org/Pages/bike_locking.html

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    The Kryptonite locks each come with a \”guarantee\” indicating how much replacement value coverage they will provide if the bike is stolen while locked with it. While I\’ve heard it\’s pretty difficult to actually get them to pony up, it at least provides a useful scale for how easy it is to defeat each lock….

    You have to follow the registration procedure within 2 weeks of purchase. Also, you will have to follow the claim procedure if your bike is stolen. And the guarantee is only good for a limited time period– one year unless you pay for extended coverage of two or three years.

    Still, if you have homeowners or renters insurance, that will cover the theft of a bike, and the Kryptonite guarantee will then pay your deductible.

    They also have a 1 – 12 security rating system on the package, with \”12\” being the most secure. You can use that rating system to gauge one Kryptonite lock\’s security against another Kryptonite lock\’s security.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    tonyt July 10, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    One more \”don\’t\” to add to the list.

    Do NOT lock your bike on your front porch. Locking it on A porch now and again isn\’t so bad, but locking it to the same porch night after night gives thieves the opportunity to plan and prepare.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Spanky July 10, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Just this morning at 4:30 am, I saw a guy on the far sidewalk riding across \”guiding\” another bike with his right hand. If I were a cop, I\’d have stopped him as it looked suspicious as hell.

    We\’ve had bikes (among other things)stolen from our front porch – locked to one another.

    When it has happened to me, the penalty should be the same as it used to be for horse theft….

    I think the RFID idea is a wonderful one. Lojack for bikes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    bjorn July 10, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    I have seen in other cities (I think salem was one) where cops put out a car to be stolen and as soon as it is started it notifies the cops and they have gps tracking to follow the car. Why can\’t we have a similar bike theft decoy bike. It would be interesting to know if in portland we have more dollars worth of cars or bikes stolen and not recovered in a year. The solution isn\’t bigger locks, or better tracking, it is actually trying to catch the people who are stealing the bikes. Right now if you catch a person with your bike after it is stolen they can just say they found it or whatever and it is hard for the cops to prove otherwise, we need them to be catching these people in the act.

    Bjorn

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    I have seen in other cities (I think salem was one) where cops put out a car to be stolen and as soon as it is started it notifies the cops and they have gps tracking to follow the car. Why can\’t we have a similar bike theft decoy bike.

    The police have done that with bikes in Canada. Followed the bikes all the way back to a warehouse of stolen bikes. Usually, they uncover evidence of other criminal activity in the process. If the police consider it to be a priority, they will work on it. It\’s up to us to convince them that bike theft, collectively, is big criminal business.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    John July 10, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    I\’ve had the same idea- After seeing how well the tags work for finding pets, it makes sense. The same business which maintains the pet database probably wouldn\’t mind expanding its market. The pet database is a subscription service, and anything for bikes would likely work the same way. Part of the subscription fee could easily go towards providing rfid scanners to police and bike shops; this would only make the system more effective, and more attractive to cyclists.
    Planting the tag wouldn\’t be hard at all. Maybe make one side sticky, and poke it down to the bottom of the seat tube.

    In any case, this stuff\’s cheap and easy to implement, and easy to back up to an accessible database as well, while maintaining a level of confidentiality in the system. Not to mention, it would (should?) be voluntary, so if rfid is Scary, avoiding a trackable bike is even easier than avoiding the rfid in practically everything else.

    Without some way to positively identify bikes easily, the police aren\’t going to be especially motivated to track down stolen bikes. When it\’s as easy as waving the magic wand at a bike in order to catalog it in the warehouse inventory, (instead of manually transcribing a description or serial number) or to add a theft charge to an arrest, followup will happen.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Mr. Viddy July 10, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    My first five years in Portland saw me fall victim to five bike thefts, three of which were right off my balcony. Personally, my solution is just using a good u-lock and finding a good spot to lock up.

    No system is full-proof but if you take a little time to plan ahead, you can cut down the chances of your bike being stolen.

    Way too many people lose their bikes because they were careless when it came to securing them in the first place. Again, this is just my opinion.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    bhance July 10, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    bjorn – there are GPS-equipped bait bikes out there, but they are often too expensive for most departments to deploy.

    The cops at my old university, to their credit, used to place expensive poorly locked \”bait bikes\” out during certain seasons – and then lie in wait and nab people left and right.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Way too many people lose their bikes because they were careless when it came to securing them in the first place. Again, this is just my opinion.

    It\’s more than just opinion, it\’s fact, borne out in police reports on bike thefts.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Way too many people lose their bikes because they were careless when it came to securing them in the first place. Again, this is just my opinion.

    It\’s more than just opinion, it\’s fact, borne out in police reports on bike thefts.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    peejay July 10, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Bike theft is a culture. It only becomes widespread when there are ways to sustain it. How many of you have bought bikes or bike parts from craigslist? Did you ask for proof of ownership before buying? Some of the cheap bikes locked with cheap locks were already stolen before, and sold for cheap.

    When we say there is no solution but better locks, we say that we cannot stop the thieves from stealing other bikes, just ours. When we lock our bike deliberately next to a badly locked bike, we are benefitting from the misfortune of others, and not stopping or even slowing down crime. When we use \”decoy\” bikes, that helps everybody. A few GPS-located bikes in the system, once they are known, protect a whole city of bikes.

    But who whould administer this decoy program? Hmmm, how about all those fine officers who spend their days ticketing people in zero-crash areas?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    N.I.K. July 10, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    Sounds like a fun project for folks to get involved in…wish I had the free time to contribute. That said, I think it\’s important to remember that this is nothing more than a *recovery* tool and thus should only be a last resort. Seconding rixtir\’s comments, the folks who lock shoddily would still be bike-less for a while at the very least. Better to lock right in the first place and avoid the problem altogether.

    And seconding mike\’s comments, yes: it\’s absolutely essential that the flagging be limited to \”stolen\”/\”not stolen\” in such a system as this. Beyond us paranoid privacy advocates (yup, I\’m one of \’em*), this is also important to prevent all kinds of identity theft badness that we\’re all better off without.

    *…or am I? DUHN-DUHN-DUUUUUHNNNN ;P

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    SKiDmark July 10, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    So tell me peejay, how do I prove ownership of a bike I bought at Goodwill, when I go to sell it? I have bought a few nice bikes at Goodwill (mostly vintage Schwinns) and after many hours of labor sold them for a little bit of a profit.

    A dead giveaway that a bike is stolen is if it is a really expensive bike going for less than half of what it\’s worth.

    You could also ask the owner for the serial # and then have the Police Dept. run it to see if it is stolen. I know they do it for the bike co-ops, so they would probably do it for a private party.

    I think most theft is opportunistic, if a bike is easy to steal, it\’s gone. Bikes that are unattended for long periods of time in the same place night after night are going to get noticed and then stolen. I would never leave a bicycle outside overnight. If I lived in a closet I would hang the bike on a hook over my bed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    So tell me peejay, how do I prove ownership of a bike I bought at Goodwill, when I go to sell it? I have bought a few nice bikes at Goodwill (mostly vintage Schwinns) and after many hours of labor sold them for a little bit of a profit.

    Get a receipt. That goes for everybody, every time you buy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    bhance July 10, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    RE: SKiDmark\’s comment above – most police depts often maintain their own database, in various stages of update – so there\’s a lot of fragmentation from dept to dept, and they are often not shared.

    You see this a lot with bikes stolen off of a campus, for example – where they are are registered in a campus PD database, but not the recovering city\’s PD database – so they wind up in the warehouse.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    SKiDmark July 10, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Rixter, they give you a reciept, it just doesn\’t say what it is for, just the price and the date of purchase. The only bike I have a reciept for is my KHS, all my other bikes were bought at yard sales, thrift stores, and swap meets.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    David Feldman July 10, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    I have a bike repair business in Vancouver. I sell very few accessories but do stock a couple of Kryptonite U locks and will NEVER stock a cable! Responsible bike stores should refuse to stock cable locks.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    Rixter, they give you a reciept, it just doesn\’t say what it is for, just the price and the date of purchase. The only bike I have a reciept for is my KHS, all my other bikes were bought at yard sales, thrift stores, and swap meets.

    For Goodwill, ask if the sales clerk will write the bike make, model and serial number on the receipt. I don\’t see any reason they can\’t do it. If they won\’t, then write it on the receipt yourself.

    For yard sales, swap meets, craigslist, etc., ask for a receipt with the bike make, model, and serial number.

    Receipts don\’t prove a bike isn\’t stolen, but they do prove that you didn\’t steal the bike. And if your bike is stolen, they prove that you are the owner.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Receipts don\’t prove a bike isn\’t stolen, but they do prove that you didn\’t steal the bike. And if your bike is stolen, they prove that you are the owner.

    I meant that if the bike is subsequently stolen from you, a receipt will prove to the police that you are the owner if they happen to recover it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    peejay July 10, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Skidmark,

    Don\’t get me wrong: it\’s not easy to prove that you\’re not buying stolen bikes, and it\’s not entirely up to the buyer to do that. But because it\’s very easy to sell stolen bikes, they keep getting stolen. And that\’s the problem. We accept the way bicycles are exchanged, and as long as we don\’t change the system, there will always be a market for stolen bikes.

    Now, I\’d hate it if you could only buy a bike from some kind of \”official\” store with some kind of serial number tracing, but there could be a better system that everyone uses (which means must use) for whenever a bike is sold, that would catch the stolen bikes before it changes hands too often, and actually catches the thief or the original fence.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Treat a bike purchase the way you\’d treat a car or house purchase. You\’d never just hand over cash in an anonymous deal for those kinds of purchases. You\’d always have the seller\’s name, address, phone number, date of sale, what\’s being sold, and the amount.

    If that same level of security is S.O.P. on bike transactions, stolen bikes get harder to sell, because they can always be traced back to the guy you bought them from.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    jeff July 10, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    There is a special place in hell for bike thieves and Henry Kissenger.

    I used to work sales in a shop in DC (also up there in cities with high bike theft rates) that refused to stock cable locks. Customers would complain about the starting price of our U-Locks vs. what cable locks are elsewhere. As difficult as that conversation was, it was definitely more pleasant than the \”I told you so\” one after they had their bike taken for using cables.

    Folks there had experimented with RFD/Lo Jack systems. One guy had his on his biek that was stolen, tracked down the thieves with a GPS system, photographed them and where they lived….even had a local tv news team do a story on it, yet the police still wouldn\’t arrest the culprits or get the bike back. There is much less crime here in Portland, but I still doubt they\’re going to go around chasing stolen bikes all day, or if that should even be a priority. Buy a good lock and list your bike on your homeowners/renters insurance. Won\’t get your baby back, but protects your investment if you a nice ride.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    beth h July 10, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Bill wrote:
    \”I wouldn\’t support a new law banning such locks but maybe the local bike store owners could be convinced not to sell them. Since a cable is only slightly more secure than no lock at all, dealers are not doing their customers a favor by selling them a cable.\”

    *****

    The shop where I work is frequented by a LOT of low-income bike riders who cannot afford the twenty dollar starting price for a decent U-Lock. A cheap cable lock costs between 5 and 10 bucks and that is already scraping the bottom financially for many of my customers. So I CAN tell a customer that a U-lock would offer more protection, and I do; but when they tell me the price is too high there\’s little else I can say. Our shop sells cable locks primarily as a last resort, believing that any lock is better than no lock at all.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    spaz July 10, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    RFID chips are a really scary idea. Especially when (seemingly) good-intentioned citizens like Matthew start sayong that we should scan all bikes that ride by! That\’s pretty friggin scary! I feel like it\’s also just a more high-tech version of the serial number; if a thief wanted to locate the chip and deactivate it I\’m sure they could do so, and such a procedure would soon be common knowledge to those ingenious little sh*theads.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Donna July 10, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    I see where Beth is coming from. I know this may seem kind of corny, but how about requiring every LBS, Target, Wal Mart, Freddy\’s, GI Joe\’s, etc., to post a cautionary sign (English and Spanish, at least) wherever they sell bike locks? So if the place that sells the cable locks aren\’t as prinicpled as where Beth works, there is some way a person could be informed, however lame. It amazes me how many people who ride bikes in Portland honestly don\’t realize how bad cable locks are.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 10, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    A cable lock has it\’s proper uses– for example, to secure your wheel (although realistically, it can be clipped and your wheel stolen anyway). What it shouldn\’t be used for is primary protection of your bike, because it will only keep honest people from stealing your bike, and honest people don\’t steal bikes in the first place.

    I understand, from hard experience, that for some people paying for a good u-lock is simply not within the budget. But I also think that many people who are sort of poor and who skimp on buying a lock will nevertheless spend money on entertainment– buying dinner out, buying drinks, going to a movie, going to see a band. *Those* people should skip the entertainment for a week, invest in a proper lock, and *then* resume their normal entertainment schedule.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Martha S. July 10, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    I\’m down for a city wide education campaign. The cards to leave on bikes seems like the best way to go about it; I\’ve nearly hand written such a thing on the spot several times when I saw bikes that would EASILY fetch $300+ on craigslist locked up with a $10 (or less) cable lock.

    If someone makes cards like these I will certainly carry them on me and distribute them.

    I\’ve been surprized by how slowly people learn; hearing stories of the same person getting multiple bikes stolen for the same reason and not changing their behavior at all… I have a friend who always leaves his garage unlocked and has had a bike stolen out of the garage… still the garage is unlocked and so is the bike inside it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    BillD July 10, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    The most recent 20 listings on Finetoothcog show that 10 bikes were locked with cables, 7 unlocked and 3 used U-locks.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    steve July 11, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Signs at the shop are not going to help much. Every employee in my shop pushes u-locks to an insane degree.

    People are not being cheap when they buy the cables, they buy them as they are smaller, lighter and easier to carry. Or so they think.

    Portland police also run stings with bait bikes. Last summer a thief actually got away with one! They sent out flyers with a photo of the bike and a description of the thief.

    Although I loathe bike thiefs, I found it sort of humorous that a fellow snatched a bait bike from right in front of our \”finest\”.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 11, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    It doesn\’t happen anywhere near as often as cheap cables being cut, or people just not locking up, but a reminder that any lock can be broken if the thief is prepared:

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=319779

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Cecil July 11, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    This thread, esp. David\’s post (#43), reminded me of an experience I had last summmer – I bought a short kryptonite cable w/ padlock at the BG a while agoand the salesperson was appalled that I was buying a cable lock – \”You\’re NOT going to lock your BIKE with that, are you?\”

    Well, no, actually, I wasn\’t – I was buying it for some other purpose and it just happened to be convenient to purchase it there with my BTA discount, but it made me ponder why BG even sold cable locks if that was the reaction to my purchase, esp. given that most folks buying those locks at a bike store would indeed be buying them as BIKE locks.

    I understand that cables are cheaper than U-locks (but a U-lock is cheaper than a new bike), and I understand that an LBS may want to make sure they have a market covered, but really, if every time someone buys the damn thing they get a lecture about not using it, why sell it?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    steve July 11, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    You don\’t honestly think what the BG stocks, has anything to do with what their employees think is appropriate do you?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Cameron July 11, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Bait cars were mentioned here. Victoria BC started a Bait program for bikes in the downtown core. Haven\’t heard how its gone, hopefully well.

    Also, bike theft is often organized crime. Shops dismantle and reassemble bikes and ship them across boundaries before reselling. In Canada penalties are low if caught, and there is little risk of being caught, and its easy to pull off. Its a good business to be in. The conditions need to become less favourable. As noted, buying a better lock is the easiest solution, but its dissapointing that such a rampant crime doesn\’t have more resources devoted to it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jack July 11, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    I think it\’s all a matter of supply and demand. We need to cut off the supply. Mostly these bikes are being stolen by Mexican, Iranian, and Russian bike-theft gangs. The solution is more enforecment of the borders, to cut off the supply. This is why I\’ll be voting for Giuliani / Cheney.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    SKiDmark July 11, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Actually most bike theifs are meth and heroin addicted crackers, just like you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Todd B July 11, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Other option…press your local government(s) to equitably spend parking development funding (10%) and…why are there only city contract renewals for \’smart parks\’/ \’park and go\’s\’ with attendants for cars and very poor bike parking?

    And why are they willing to spend $40K per car parking stall vs. $1K per bike locker?

    http://www.bikelink.org

    http://www.bikestation.org

    http://www.locker.nl

    http://www.bikerepublic.org

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Todd B July 11, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Also the Dutch bike companies have been offering a security type chip on their bikes for about 10 years. But countering bike theft (and thus surpressing replacement sales) is less \’interesting\’ for bike companies here in the US.

    http://www.batavus.nl/
    Loose translation:

    DiefstalPreventieChip:
    \”Nearly every Batavus-fiets are Dpc-chip with a special code with, which is coupled at purchase of your bicycle to your name, provide. At robber stable this chip forms extra appliances to bring back the bicycle at the legitimate owner.\”

    \”Step-by-step plan if your bicycle is nevertheless stolen: Batavus make you and your concessionnaire easy! Batavus ensure in
    advance already the recording of the frame number and the robber stable prevention chip (DPC) of your bicycle. These data (frame – and Dpc-nummer) are sent directly to the RDC (RAI DataCentre) for the link to the RDW (realm service for movement).\”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Cecil July 12, 2007 at 9:05 am

    Post 63 – Gotta love loose translations. I am going to try to fit \”robber stable\” into all my conversations.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Patrick July 12, 2007 at 9:44 am

    I think the \”bait\” bike with GPS is a great idea. Use cable locks to ensure they\’ll get stolen.

    I haven\’t bought them but I\’ve seen a website for Pinhead locks that lock your wheels, seat, and head set. I\’m curious if anyone\’s tried them out or if folks are using a U-Lock and Cable combo.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 12, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    I haven\’t bought them but I\’ve seen a website for Pinhead locks that lock your wheels, seat, and head set. I\’m curious if anyone\’s tried them out or if folks are using a U-Lock and Cable combo.

    Do you mean pitlocks?

    http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/pitlock.asp

    I like those a lot, plan to get some, but they\’re expensive, so haven\’t got them yet. Still, they seem like the way to go. You can lock your wheels, stem, seat post, and brakes, all with the same key.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Logan 5 July 12, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    I have a sign I hang on my bike with a small box on my rack that says \”Eco-friendly Blood-Borne Pathogen Disposal Service\”. I\’ve never used a lock.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    BeerdedOne July 12, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    I second use of the excellent Pitlock locking skewers, IMO they exceed the Pinhead quality, and will save your wheels from thieves.

    One caveat, however, you may not be able to use the locking seat post bolt very easily- depending on your seat tube diameter properly designed clamps (that will work with the locking mechanism) are very difficult to find. If you have a braze-on type clamp, it will most likely work fine.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Cecil July 12, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    I am definitely getting pitlocks for my dyno-hub, if nothing else . .

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    tonyt July 12, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    So they mention how easy it is to steal a fork, but I don\’t see anything about actually having a product to stop that.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 12, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    So they mention how easy it is to steal a fork, but I don\’t see anything about actually having a product to stop that.

    I think if you have your stem secured with a pitlock, it would probably be impossible to steal your fork.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    tonyt July 12, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    I\’m missing something then. They show skewer-like devices. How would you use the pitlock to secure a stem?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir July 12, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    My mistake, it\’s a headset cap, not a stem lock. Scroll down the website, you\’ll see they have several different kits available, including a kit for your headset.

    http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/pitlock.asp

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar

    I was in Holland recently for meetings with Batavus (Fourth Floor Distribution is the Canadian distributor) and my inside man confided to me that the DPC chip is great but it still ain\’t all that. It\’s a good idea from a technology point of view, but the problem has been political will. In other words, you can equip cops with the DPC \’reader\’ but that doesn\’t mean they will use them – and from what I was told, in Holland, they largely don\’t. I agree that technology and political will will reduce bike theft (we have a GPS equipped \’bait bike\’ program at UofT that has been very successful), but what I don\’t see is many of my customers taking responsibility for their own bikes by purchasing a good lock or taking the right precautions when locking their bikes. It drives me crazy! In Holland the consumer is protected since almost 75% of the population buys bike insurance, but even they are beginning to learn that a good bike lock resolves many a worry. I just got back from Interbike and I couldn\’t count the number of \’commuter bikes\’ with quick release wheels. And that\’s the other problem, the bicycle industry itself is grossly irresponsible when it comes to protecting the consumer from theft – which is one reason why I like the Batavus bikes so much. Anyways, we\’ll all figure it out one day, I figure it\’s all part of our cycle commuter growing pains.

    http://www.curbside.on.ca
    http://www.onthefourth.com

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    woogie October 1, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Talked to a friend who works at a bike manuf. about RFID. They said they had real problems with reading the tag through all frame materials, including carbon fiber.

    Other problems involve when and how to place them in the frame. The best time is to have the chip created when the serial number is placed on the frame. The problem here is that this usually occurs before painting, and after being painted frames are baked to cure the paint. They had problems with the tags not surviving the baking process.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Rui August 28, 2009 at 6:40 am

    I looked @ RFID when I had my frame build. Passive chips do not give a strong enough signal through metal… might work for carbon though(?). Some active RFID chips are powerful enough, but need power and are much larger – not practical.

    Nice idea… but technology is not there yet.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Neil November 20, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Hey, I didn’t read all 70+ posts here, but in scanning, I noted a number of folks carge owners to get locks. There are not only bikes stolen that are locked, but from other locations assumed to be secure, like inside a home, or garrage. Locks keep honest people honest, but something being unlocked doesn’t make the theif any more entitled to it. I applaud the thinking of the RFID, even if the technology isn’t there yet. As far as law enforcement, or others, actually using it, or the serial number, or other types of bike owner registration programs, it’s another hurdle.
    Anything that adds aditional risk to the thief’s life, is good in my book.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    MUddah's Bikes August 10, 2010 at 10:09 am

    OK, so am I clueless or what

    Please tell me what is so bad about “cables” – I currently use a good lock with a quality cable – IS MY Bike totally at risk o ris “Cable lock something else”

    Please help – my Xtra-cycle is at stake

    Muddah

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar