Suit-wearing thief nabs bike from City of Portland building

Thief surveys his target.
See more photos below.
(Photos: PDOT)

Central Precinct officers are on the lookout for a suit-wearing thief that nabbed an unsecured bike from the racks in front of the City of Portland Office of Transportation’s headquarters in downtown Portland (1120 SW 5th, across the street from City Hall).

The theft occurred around 2:00pm last Friday (8/22). Below is a message sent to PDOT staff from City of Portland Security Project Manager Gary Crane:

“Attached are some security snap shots [see more below] taken of a person who stole a bike from the loggia area of The Portland Building (1120 SW 5th Ave.). The thief is dressed in a suit. He was very quick as he snatched the unsecured bike and left east bound on Main. The theft has Portland Police case number 08-083270. If anyone knows who this person is or have seen him, I would appreciate hearing from you. Officer Mark Friedman of Central Precinct is the bureau contact person at 503-823-0097.”

And here are the security snap shots:

This isn’t the first time PDOT has had issues with security at these bike racks. Last summer, a much more brazen thief went to work with a set of bolt cutters. He was also caught on film (no word on whether he was ever caught he was arrested and plead guilty).

Facilities staff have put up signs near the racks warning of theft.

I have used those racks many times, and I have to say they are a bit awkward to use. They are some sort of jaw-type system that requires you to pull your bike in, then line up the rack so that it clenches your frame. Lining it up can be a hassle and I’m guessing that the person in this most recent theft didn’t mean to leave their bike unlocked — they might have just not used the rack properly.

I know some readers park in these racks everyday; what do you think can be done to make these racks more secure and perhaps easier to use?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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KT
KT
15 years ago

In this instance, even a crappy cable lock would have deterred the thief.

I hope whoever\’s owns that bike gets it back!

Ron
Ron
15 years ago

They used to hang horse thieves…

beth h
15 years ago

The racks are a little awkward, especially the bike has an open or \”step-through\” frame. However, most regularly-sized U-locks CAN be made to work with them.
I\’m sorry for the bike\’s owner but I have to concur with # 1.

Bob
Bob
15 years ago

Those jaw-type bike racks are not user friendly at all. It doesn\’t surprise me that thieves target that area. The first time I tried to lock up there it took me about five minutes to figure it all out.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
15 years ago

I have to admit that I once locked my U-lock and went inside the PDOT building, only to return and notice my lock wasn\’t actually around both the rack and my bike.

I think they should consider getting rid of those things.

Hart
15 years ago

They ought to brand people like this on the forehead with the letters \’BT\’ like they used to in pirate days.

Carl
Carl
15 years ago

Oh, how I hate those racks. They don\’t work on the weird bikes I ride and whenever I chain up to the decorative railing thing, I get these nasty little notes from security… It\’s easy to recognize the bikes of city employees because their forks and seatstays have the paint all chipped at the same level from those stupid iron maidens. Does ANYone actually use them as designed and lock up with just a padlock?

Sorry. I just relish the opportunity to whine about those racks.

ANYway, this makes me extra-suspicious of downtown suitwearers.

And for those of you who get excited about bike locking, I just wrote a little piece for the BTA blog about avoiding bike theft. http://www.bta4bikes.org/btablog/2008/08/22/dont-get-your-bike-stolen/

a.O
a.O
15 years ago

Does anyone really believe that you can leave your bike unlocked in *any* rack in this city and reasonably expect to find it there upon your return? Seriously.

Martha R
Martha R
15 years ago

I used to use those racks on a regular basis. During that time, I did observe a wide variety of locking techniques, some of which were probably due to the user\’s inexperience with the racks and some of which were due to the user\’s lock or bike geometry.

Unlike Carl (#7), I ride fairly conventional bikes and my U-lock works well with those racks. So once I became accustomed to the racks, I did appreciate the fact that they clamped both wheels and the frame.

Given that the racks are more for visitors than employees (there are better racks in the parking garage below), it would be better to provide the standard staple rack: there\’d be less of a learning curve, and they\’d accommodate a wider range of frame styles and locks. Seemed like a good idea in the \’80s, but we\’ve moved on since then.

Regular Parker
Regular Parker
15 years ago

I actually use these racks on a regular basis – personally I am a fan. I think it took me a few minutes the first time I used them to figure them out. I have an older bike, so I don\’t really care about the paint job so I haven\’t noticed the paint chipping issue.

I really like that it locks through both wheels, and holds your bike more upright than the average staple rack with more space between bikes. I hate how staple racks can get really crowded – like at New Seasons & it can be impossible to get your bike in/out without getting handlebars stuck. I also like that the entire area is covered – especially in the rainy months, so I always come out to a dry seat. I do occasionally see bikes unlocked or incorrectly locked – but I see that happen with all types of bike racks.

Logan
15 years ago

They have those racks here in Sacramento, CA. The racks work ok…but they are definitely awkward, take up alot of space and I always find myself spending twice the usual amount of time locking. In the past I used a u-lock, cable and padlock, but the alignment issues were time consuming. Lately, to save time I have started just using the outside movable arm of the rack to lock to with the u-lock and cable. Taking a survey of other patrons I noticed not a single bike in that area (about 20 bikes) used the rack with a padlock as it was designed.

Carl
Carl
15 years ago

Okay Martha. Good point. It IS nice to be able to lock the frame and both wheels so quickly and efficiently. Perhaps without them we\’d see more wheels stolen at the Portland building. I do admire the intention regardless of the practical reality.

Hart
15 years ago

Anybody think that the bike thief caught on camera might have been Nick Cave?

Icarus Falling
Icarus Falling
15 years ago

When using those racks, I lock to another actual bike frame. I can do this as I am moving quickly in and out of the building, and would not be hindering anyone during that time.

I think those racks are janky and should be replaced. They are just difficult and no fun. I have never trusted them, nor many of the unsavory people who seem to stand around eyeballing them.

The funny thing is if you try to lock up somewhere on the sidewalk, security will sometimes tell you to use the racks instead. But if you freelock against the wall, they will sometimes stand by your bike and watch it for you until you come back outside.

Oh the Irony!

BURR
BURR
15 years ago

Those racks are called Rack3 and they are relatively easy to use with a ULock; and yes Carl, I used them for years and often did use them as intended with a padlock. The problems with them are (1) that some bikes have frame geometries that don\’t fit, (2) the city doesn\’t maintain them – the hinges and moving parts on many of them seem to be worn or out of adjustment, and (3) the set installed on the north side of the building is installed backwards, so that your chainring leans up against the rack frame. Personally I like them as when used properly they lock both wheels and the frame.

BURR
BURR
15 years ago

…if you try to lock up somewhere on the sidewalk, security will sometimes tell you to use the racks instead.

I don\’t understand why the city hasn\’t put one of those 4-staple blue racks out on the sidewalk in front of the Portland Building like the one they have installed by the 4th Ave entrance to city hall.

theelkbugler
theelkbugler
15 years ago

Those racks were not designed when U-locks were popular. They are designed to be used with a pad-lock that is enocompassed by a cage so a bolt cutter can\’t get to it. They will work with U-locks though. I think there are rumors these will be replaced at some time in the future.
By the way the person mentioned in the story with bolt cutters was arrested and plead guilty. He was already in jail for armed robbery at the time of his trial date.

Kirsty
Kirsty
15 years ago

I use these kinds of bike racks every day at the Portland Building. I love the fact that they do clamp both your frame and your wheels, if used correctly, but do feel from experience they also have a lot of drawbacks as a bikerack model.

As a couple of other posters have alluded to, they can scatch up your bike frame pretty badly (they have decimated my poor Trek); they takeup a lot of space where perhaps staple racks would be more space-efficient; and most importantly, they do not appear to be intuitive to use for many people wanting to lock up their bikes. I see many bikes not locked correctly in this clamshell designs, and some bikes not locked up at all. I was actually wondering to myself only last week, how long it would be before a bicycle was stolen from this area as a result.

ED
ED
15 years ago

There is a simple step the city could take to greatly inhibit bike theft at this site. Have you noticed that the huge windows are almost entirely blocked by cubicle partition walls in the interior? In addition to wasting natural lighting and depriving the employees of daylight and outside views (they might as well be in a basement) the possibility of a theft being witnessed becomes nil. This is an easily remedied and somewhat self-created problem. Do these city employees need privacy from the public? Why?

Lazlo
Lazlo
15 years ago

\”When using those racks, I lock to another actual bike frame. I can do this as I am moving quickly in and out of the building, and would not be hindering anyone during that time.\”

You\’re kidding, right? If I ever caught you, you\’d be wearing a u-lock necklace.

Dennis
Dennis
15 years ago

Carl,
In your blog you mention not using locks with cylindrical keys. Why is that? I have a sturdy looking u-lock, but if the key can be easily faked, the remainder of the lock does not matter.

Donald
Donald
15 years ago

@ Icarus

Oh, man. I had a messenger lock his bike to mine once.

18 minutes of my life I\’ll never have back. And a nearly-ruined first-date.

\”Sorry, dude. Elevator was stuck. Blame Otis.\”

IMHO, that\’s a rude move.

a.O
a.O
15 years ago

I had this happen to me once too. Extremely rude.

a.O
a.O
15 years ago

\”ANYway, this makes me extra-suspicious of downtown suitwearers.\”

There are some seriously shifty (and shift-ie) dudes walking around down here in suits.

theelkbugler
theelkbugler
15 years ago

The suit definately makes them harder to spot. Also, if you don\’t lock your bike it\’s real hard to tell if someone didn\’t lock their bike or are stealing it.

Steve (not steve)
Steve (not steve)
15 years ago

If someone locks their bike to yours doesn\’t it become a gift accesssory. Be thankful you\’ve never locked up to mine.

Sarah Bott
Sarah Bott
15 years ago

This is EXACTLY what happened to my bike at the Portland Building. It was locked, but I parked it at 8am and it was gone by noon. I have no idea what the thief was wearing and don\’t care, but now I have almost no expectation of security for my (new) bike. It sucks.

Matthew Denton
Matthew Denton
15 years ago

I like these racks too, (they took some getting used to the first time I used them,) although I carry two U locks anyways, so my wheels stay on my bicycle regardless of what rack I use…

(And locking your bike to a stranger\’s bike is a good way to get your paint scratched…)

chris
chris
15 years ago

Nice suit. Most likely some punk who just got his criminal court case dismissed and was celebrating with a little five finger discount.

PS. Hey PDOT. How about some HD cameras so you can do some decent image zoom?

Maculsay
Maculsay
15 years ago

19

Cubicle walls near windows usually means that folks are not allowed to have a \”privileged\” cube (or there isn\’t enough square feet for a hallway). It drives me nuts too, and find it all the time in the big corporate institutions…

Icarus Falling
Icarus Falling
15 years ago

Don\’t get your panties in a bunch.

If locked to another bike, it is for mere moments, like at the very most 5 minutes. One knows not to lollygag around if you have had to lock in this manner, for you recall the times that someone has locked to you in the same manner.

I myself have spent a great amount of time wandering around a bar, or venue, looking for the owner of a bike that has been locked to me for hours.

Just the other night, there were no fewer than 9 bikes locked to my sweet Fat Chance,(a hand made Mt Bike) which was the only one locked to the pole.
Did I freak out? Certainly not…..

It is done all the time, all over town. And the racks outside this building can be so full that there is no other choice at times.

a.O
a.O
15 years ago

Well Icarus, locking your bike to someone else\’s is illegal. It\’s a trespass to chattel.

And since you\’ve shown yourself to be such a stickler for legal technicalities and to have such an abhorrence for violating the property rights of others over on the graffiti thread, and in other threads under your previous pseudonym, I\’m sure you won\’t do it again now that you know that.

KWW
KWW
15 years ago

Once, whilst locking my bike to those racks, I fell in, and accidentally locked myself in for 14 hours.

Luckily a thieve dressed up like Robert Palmer stole me…

Donna
Donna
15 years ago

Those racks don\’t fit my bike frame at all. It\’s really irritating when the few staple racks are full. As a matter of fact, I\’ve been known to skip Bicycle Brown Bag Lunches because of the parking hassle…

eileen
eileen
15 years ago

Hart, I thought he looked familiar! Either that or he\’s my ex-husband. I need to see a close-up.

Icarus Falling
Icarus Falling
15 years ago

A.O.,
I do not love to argue as you apparently do, so I shall not answer your questions.

And, by the way, my sign in name varies depending on which Mac I am using…. I just don\’t adjust it.

Have a good day!

Donald
Donald
15 years ago

trespass to chattel…priceless

live a day, learn a little

I love this place

BURR
BURR
15 years ago

donna – technically there is no short term parking at the Portland Bldg,, unless you count the couple of staple racks under the loggia at the SW corner of the building, which are generally filled by long term parkers.

I don\’t understand why there aren\’t any racks out on the curb for short term bike parking at the Portland Building, there were before the MAX construction. There should be curbside parking for at least 8 bikes, messengers come and go all day long, and there\’s plenty of room for a row of staples.

Tom Miller
Tom Miller
15 years ago

Having had a bike stolen in Portland once, a Specialized M2 that I had dumped some money into, I\’m pretty cautious. I make a point of never using those racks. I beeline it for the few staple racks recently added. If those are all filled, I\’ll park in the basement, which I\’m fortunate to be able to access as a City employee. For those without access to the basement, there is the covered bike parking at city hall. Bonus for being literally right outside my window. If you park there be sure to wave and say hi.

Icarus Falling
Icarus Falling
15 years ago

I also have wondered how many of the racks Tri Met took out have been replaced?

It doesn\’t seem that they put back too many of them.
They should be made to put in more than they took out.

D Kelly
15 years ago

Does it seem like he might be left handed? Or left legged?

peejay
peejay
15 years ago

Miller

When will your boss, CRC Sam, actually do something for cyclists, instead of holding press conferences?

Maybe getting some racks installed at a City-owned building is too much for him.

Cub
Cub
15 years ago

Damn, now that I\’ve been caught on camera I\’m going to have to get rid of my favorite bike-stealing suit! Maybe I\’ll wear the orange prison jumpsuit next time…

Dan Vizzini
Dan Vizzini
15 years ago

One simple trick I use to get my bike into the racks at the Portland Building… once I roll the bike into position and close the \”jaw\”, I lightly lift my bike to allow the wheels to adjust and settle in place. This technique eliminates the kind of wrestling I used to go through to deal with the \”jaw\”. Once in place, my u-shaped lock fits perfectly across the \”jaw in such a way that the lock captures the bike frame as will as the two sides of the \”jaw\”. The stand is snug and secure, locking both wheels and the frame.

By the way, two years ago, I had a brand new bike stolen from the stand directly under Commissioner Adams\’ office window. I take full responsibility for an inadequate lock and an assumption that the location of the stand afforded me additional security. Live and learn can be expensive.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
15 years ago

\” Miller

When will your boss, CRC Sam, actually do something for cyclists, instead of holding press conferences?

Maybe getting some racks installed at a City-owned building is too much for him.\”

peejay,

i know you\’re frustrating with the pace of change here in Portland. So am I.

However, I really don\’t appreciate that type of comment. It\’s about tone, not about content.

I have no problem with you wanting to question the future Mayor or his chief of staff\’s commitment to bikes… but please watch the tone of your comments.

your frustrations and emotions are beginning to hurt the effectiveness of your feedback.

Just Curious
Just Curious
15 years ago

How long do you think it will be before the city should justifiably charge a parking fee!!!

Aaron
Aaron
15 years ago

I agree with #10. These racks are unique design which makes it easy to protect wheels and frame with one U-lock. I think it would help to have a few staple racks for unusual frames, but the racks there are much higher quality. I was impressed with them when first locking there.
When I found myself at the Portland building without a lock, I brought it in and dropped off what I needed. Never trust your bike unlocked downtown.
On the positive side I think it\’s impressive that the city is actually pursuing this. Many many times elsewhere when a bike is stolen in view of a camera, the tape is never released and no action is taken by the property owners.
Kudos Portland!

Jessica Roberts
Jessica Roberts
15 years ago

My bike\’s geometry doesn\’t work with these racks. It\’s so annoying that, of all possible downtown buildings, the Portland Office of Transportation is in a building where I can\’t reasonably lock my bike.

Please just take them out and replace them with normal staple racks!!!

Chris
Chris
15 years ago

Why doesn\’t someone that uses these tortuous racks on a regular basis post a video on YouTube (or similar) showing us how to best secure our bikes with a U-lock?
I get frustrated every time I have had to use these racks. I swear, I stare for about 3 minutes after I have locked my bike up trying to envision if I have truly secured the bike.

Red Hippie
Red Hippie
15 years ago

Watching the TV news last night, this has to be the most publicised bike theft ever. Probably 2 million people saw the guy in the suit. Hell, he is a celebrity. I should make and sell T-shirts saying \”I\’m the guy in the suit\”.

I wonder what the big deal is, other than it being a slow news day and a that there was a picture of it happening. Remember, that this is a case of a person who did not lock up their bike and it got stolen.

Lets move on.