There might be fewer people commuting and parking their bikes downtown these days, but unfortunately bike thieves are not working from home.
A BikePortland reader reached out to us over the weekend to share the sad news that their electric cargo bike had been stolen. They also sent a video and a brief description of how it happened. Bike theft is so common in Portland that I don’t share every one of them we hear about here on the Front Page unless there’s a notable circumstance.
This theft was notable for two reasons: First, it was captured on video; and second, the person who took the bike did so by first loosening the bolts that attached it to the sidewalk. As you can see in the video above, the thief calmy unscrews the bolts of the staple rack, then works the rack through the u-lock, leaves the rack on the ground, and rides off. The victim used a heavy-duty u-lock, but it didn’t matter.
Also notable about this theft is that the rack isn’t blue. This makes me wonder if it was a City of Portland rack or a rack installed by a private building owner. It matters because the standard, blue, Portland Bureau of Transportation staple racks were upgraded in 2017 with tamper-resistant bolts that are harder to unscrew.
This is so infuriating to see! Many Portlanders simply won’t lock up their bikes on a street due to fears of theft and it’s a problem don’t seem to have made much progress addressing over the years.
Unbolting bike racks is nothing new. We’ve covered the issue on several occasions over the years. It seems the best solution to this is to require that racks are sunk directly into the concrete so bolts are not required. If we installed racks this way they’d not only be impossible for thieves to unscrew, they’d also be much stronger bollards against careless drivers. (Then again, I could see thieves carrying around sledgehammers or concrete cutters, but I’d rather not think about that.)
We hope this person gets their excellent and clearly loved bike back. It’s a distinctive red Xtracycle longtail with white accents and a relatively uncommon Nomad Cycles mid-drive motor. See more in this Reddit thread.
Also of note, there’s clearly two suspects here. The person working on the rack and the lookout posting on the corner.
Yep – at first I wondered if the woman on the corner with the cellphone was going to call in a bike theft in progress, since she was clearly paying attention to the guy at the bike rack. Then it becomes clear they are working together.
I wonder if this is yet another argument for a frame lock? A thief can’t ride away quickly – he would have to carry the bike, which would slow him down a bit.
I really, really hope the cops catch these two, though I’m guessing the chances of that happening are about 2%. Probably the bike is on its way to Mexico or Florida.
I went to a Blazers game last night. I don’t bike to games any more. I drove. My buddy I was with and I were talking about how incredibly little we bike in town these days. Way too many friends have had bikes stolen, sometimes in daylight hours, and I’d like to not join those ranks. When I can I walk to where I’m going. On the weekend I take the bus or MAX. When those don’t work, I drive. It sucks. I still love a lot about Portland but there’s a lot to reaaaally dislike these days, too.
This is the only reason I use Biketown. I prefer to ride my own bikes, but I won’t leave them locked up in public for more than a few minutes.
I would never park my bike to go to a event, or concert unless there is security or a bouncer stationed directly in front of the bike rack. Forget riding to work and parking outside, take that bike into your office. Individual Bike lockers like they have in the Bay Area should be widespread in Portland.
Ya know, I never worried about this in the past (or some totally rando violence I’ve heard about lately). I’d go to Ground Kontrol until close, shows at Slab Town, shows at Rotture, meet friends on 21st, go to Beulahland, Berbati’s, EJ’s, Satyricon, use computer labs at PSU deep into the night, etc. And I’m just thinking of late night things here, when thieves would have had the cover of night to be shitheads. But now it’s sketchy even in the middle of the day. I had an SKS seat post fender stolen once when I was working an evening shift at the downtown restaurant I worked at in like 2001. Literally, that’s it, one fender. I miss old, chill, mellow Portland. I liked how low key, sleepy and overlooked we were. Somewhere along the way the city has lost itself, totally lost the way. I don’t get it.
I had my $45 GT track pedals and $50 black star bags straps ganked off my bike while in safeway on hawthorne. I saw a sketchy looking dude nearby and braced him verbally – he pulled a knife on me about it. I ended up lowering my saddle and “fast walked” home. I thought I was safe parking under a security camera in the lower parking area. Guess not. Now I lick up by the front door, right near the street. More eyes on it…not that it matters.
After having bike components stolen at the Winco on Powell multiple times, I now drive. It still amazes me that after 40 years of shopping by bike, I now drive for the vast majority of my shopping trips.
I used to shop with a Burly cargo trailer. I’d absolutely never do that now. If that was left outside I’m sure it would be gone on my first shopping trip.
If you use a Burly Travoy trailer, you can easily take it inside with you. It’s a great design.
I used to own their Nomad trailer. It was great it just ceased to see much use and a friend had a great need for it. I sold it and got a few bucks, he got a much needed trailer and paid less than a third of retail. How in the heck would one manage grocery bags on a Travoy?? Seems like you’re at great risk of having your oranges dumping out and rolling across traffic lanes.
I highly recommend renters insurance, it covers your bike and if it gets stolen you get the full retail price to buy a new bike.I wouldn’t park my full carbon bike at a concert but it really adds to my piece of mind when I park my beater.
The phenomenon that someone videos vs doing something…seems to be growing.
In this case it was a security camera, not a person.
And videoing IS doing something, and often is the most effective, practical option available.
No, no. It was definitely a 12ft tall person filming while standing completely still for 3+ minutes.
Looks like a security camera so I’m not sure that’s applicable.
Also there are many more cameras now so what you describe would be more common just because of the increased amount of recorded content.
There’s about four minutes of video. Other than the thiefs, only two people walk by on the sidewalk. That particular intersection may not be the heart of downtown, but for a midday during a weekday, the emptiness and lack of activity is stark.
It also looks quite cold, so that might have had an effect on foot traffic.
…and the retail space the bike is parked in front is for lease/empty. The car also parked by the bike doesn’t have a license plate.
The places around it are not empty.
Your bike is only as safe parked on the streets of Portland as long as it takes for the thief to spot it. If they spot it, they will and can take it no matter how you lock it.
Bike owner made at least three mistakes:
(1) Parking in front of a vacant storefront on a very lightly traveled sidewalk.
(2) Not checking the anchoring of the rack they locked up to.
(3) Not running their ulock through a wheel, which would have prevented the bike from being ridden off with the ulock still intact.
So sorry for their loss!
Not really, more like educating cyclists how not to lose their bike to theft.
I noted the lack of locked wheel too. And, no, it’s not victim-blaming to educate others about what could have improved the security. The thief cased it and saw a very low-effort target. The thief is still the thief here. It’s still okay to talk about how to make their work more difficult.
I’ll never get over how far too many people only lock the top bar to the bike rack. That is super easy pickings with a substandard bike rack. Also, I always check the bolts on a bike rack. If they’re bolted with standard bolts, there’s no way that I’m locking up to it (unless it’s locked up somewhere where I can view it the entire time it’s locked).
That bike would have been too heavy and awkward to portage away had the wheel been locked. I’d always recommend a frame-mounted wheel lock on any heavier bike like that (especially if it’s e-assist). Then, even had the U-lock been defeated (by whatever method) it would have been much more work to unlock the wheel lock without damaging the wheel and being able to ride away.
If this site has taught me anything, it’s that giving people advice about how not to have bad things happen to them is victim blaming.
The thief is the sole cause of the problem. The onus is on them not to steal my bike. It’s not my responsibility not to have my bike stolen. Bikes wouldn’t get stolen if there weren’t as many thieves around. And so forth.
Same applies to nighttime visibility and other regular guests.
I’m giving your post a thumbs up even though IMO by your logic no one should ever need to lock their bike anywhere anytime and it should still be there when they return regardless of the location and circumstances. Good luck with that!
Same here. I live in such a community now – I’ve lost count the number of times I went shopping at my local supermarket at night, came out and realized I never locked my bike – and it’s still there, intact, unmolested! When I lived in Portland for 18 years, I had numerous bike computers, lights and frame pumps stolen off of it, and my cleverly-disguised NY lock was clearly jiggled and pried with all kinds of scuff marks from pry bars. I miss Portland for all kinds of reasons, but I don’t miss the ongoing worry about my bike getting stolen…
“Good luck with that!”
It’s not my logic, I’m just applying it. I agree the place it takes you is absurd.
Where the hell did my bike go?
How about not kicking someone when they’re down? Clearly this person would now make different choices in the same situation. It’s a help for all of us that she’s shared the story and video with Bike Portland. There are ways we can talk about lessons learned without shaming someone who has already figured out they didn’t do enough to secure their bike.
Sorry… who was I kicking/shaming while they were down, exactly? I have nothing but sympathy for the person whose bike was stolen, and I see nothing in what I wrote that could be interpreted otherwise.
Right, because I was directing my comments to FDUP. But your sarcasm doesn’t have the thickest veneer, you know?
Sorry — you replied to my comment, so I thought you were referring to me. My sarcasm, veneer and all, was clearly not directed at the victim here (nor at you), so sorry for the misunderstanding.
Look around on street view…Raven and Rose, Hotel, Law offices, a great Cafe…this is not what you suggest. I’d love to see us find some solutions to bike safety. Park em inside like Netherlands?
The thief made it kinda look like it was his bike and he was working on it / unlocking it. Plus, there’s really no reason for a passersby or casual observer to either question the thief’s motives or get involved.
In other words, the security of your ride is ultimately up to you and this owner failed on several levels, you’da thought he would have paid more attention based on the replacement cost of that bike and the known fact that bike thefts are very common in PDX.
True story – I once recovered someone’s front wheel I saw being jacked from a bike on a busy downtown Portland sidewalk circa mid 90s, not one passerby expressed any interest and when I chased down the thief he seemed surprised anyone would care. On top of that the owner suspected me when I returned his wheel to him, and I hurt myself in the process of recovering it for him! Not doing that again…
Personal property crime is getting worse not better in Portland. The tired refrain is always something like “it’s a complex issue.” Just ask yourself why is this not an issue in places like Boise, Austin or Salt Lake City? Using issues like homelessness, mental illness, social justice or lack of police presence as excuses or explanations for this behavior just covers up the fact that Portland in general has embraced anarchy on the streets. I’m not hopeful that any politician elected a few weeks ago will step up to address problems like this in Portland.
I agree that it is getting worse and the I’m also tired of excuses. Though I would point out that property theft is an issue in SLC and Austin – I’m not up to date in Boise but I’m guessing it happens there too. Any city that has hard drug addicts will have people willing to steal bikes to resell for their next hit. That we have a major lack of police response in this town, and that PPB even advertises this constantly is also a huge factor. I don’t personally know anyone in Portland that has actually embraced anarchy on the streets, I do know a lot of people that are really hopeful things improve, myself included
I assume that property crime has been on the rise nation-wide since covid. But I don’t have any facts to back that up that assumption. Do you have any sources indicating that property crime is NOT on the rise in Boise, Austin, or SLC?
I have the facts and you can search on your own for property crime rates of major cities. The Boise property crime rate has fallen steadily since 2017 to a rate of less than a third of Portland. Austin is similarly less than Portland. It’s amazing when a city decides criminal activity should be enforced and prosecuted instead of analyzed as an exercise in social justice reform leading to political paralysis.
I was in Boston recently, and it felt so much cleaner and safer there than here. I even saw traffic laws being enforced, repeatedly! Cars had license plates! I can’t speak to the stats, but I can speak to the feeling it evoked. It felt good.
If you haven’t left the west coast in a while, you might be surprised at how relaxed other places feel by comparison.
I have similar observations Watts having visited several major cities outside the left coast over the past year. Sometimes people are so isolated in their left coast bubble they can’t fathom things are actually different outside of the I-5 corridor of LA, SF, Portland or Seattle.
I was in NYC in February 2022 and had similar thoughts. No tents on the sidewalks or in the highway interchanges, and it actually still seemed safer than it was in the 60s and 70s.
You know that for a fact? Do you follow their local news?
It’s not that difficult to find the facts from the city crime reports which are typically required by statute, ordinance or smart journalistic reporters in each city. Here’s the personal property crime rates per 1000 residents for 2020:
Boise = 17
Austin = 17
SLC = 24
PDX = 52
Thanks for sharing. 🙁
Really, you don’t think bikes get stolen in other cities?
Where did I say that bikes don’t get stolen in other cities? Instead of defending the current hapless situation in Portland compare personal property crime rates of major cities which is what I pointed out earlier. By any comparable measure Portland’s personal property crime rate per 1000 residents is awful and getting worse compared to other major cities. Just look at some of the comments dismissing it saying all crime is up everywhere due to covid. Statements like that are completely false and expose people looking at things through Rose City colored glasses.
I am in no way defending the current situation in Portland, I think it sucks and as soon as I retire I will be leaving.
But as long as anyone is still here, they need to take the current situation into account whatever they are doing, meaning don’t lock your expensive (or otherwise) bike up in a shitty location in a half-assed way.
FDUP means either F*cked Up or Fed Up depending upon your interpretation. I am so sick of Portland at many levels right now.
That *is* what “not an issue” seems to imply.
There is 100% NO WAY I would lock my bike in Portland.
Shocking! That chump made off with the bike in just over 90 seconds. Yes, I always try to put my lock thru the frame, rack and front wheel for somewhat better deterrence, but unfortunately, a wretched thief can take just about anything if motivated. The vacant building used to house The Oregonian, which during its heyday had a lot more people around on that sidewalk at 1 pm on a weekday.
It would not surprise me if the self same thief came back and re-bolted the bike rack to the sidewalk. It looks like the perfect bike trap or snare.
What a gut punch to come back to my trusty steed last week and see that a poacher had chopped its legs off.
It was midday on the Hollywood Transit Mall, a high foot-traffic location and time of day.
Staff at Joe Bike went above and beyond to get me rolling again by the next day. I thought of the large number of people who rely on their bike to get to work, take their kids to school, get their exercise, etc., who can’t pull out their credit card, or contact their insurance agent, and repair or replace their bike right away.
My mistakes include not locking through my wheels, and not removing my accessories (Bar Mitts and odometer) and taking them with me. I do both now.
The crime scene.
Were your wheels attached with quick release axles? Bolt on axles are better, locking axles are best.
There are several brands of locking axles available, I like Pitlock, I use them on several bikes to secure wheels and saddles. They also have security products to protect other components like brakes and cockpits.
Betsy! This is awful.
For anyone confused, this is actually at SW Columbia and SW Broadway, not SW Jefferson and SW Broadway.
That thief was very smooth mounting that bike, better than I’ve seen from some folks racing cyclocross. That’s clearly someone who has spent a lot of time on bikes.
My thought exactly, Joan. I was expecting a clunky mount, but no, pretty graceful.
Yes, a sad report to read. It is more difficult to hide as a zebra in the deserted streets when predators outnumber prey these days…this is likely the other reason I saw more Biketown bikes at public racks than personal bikes during last June during my swing through P-town neighborhoods…as past Pedalpalloozas (2002-2012) there would have been thousands and not dozens locked to racks.
To add to the discussion:
Have to laugh. The majority of PDX “bike advocates” like Maus, Oregon Walks, Street Trust, Bike Loud, etc support less police, less enforcement of our traffic and other laws and then are surprised when crime sets new records in Portland.
Cops in Portland haven’t ever prioritized cyclists’ rights, so it really doesn’t make any difference to cyclists one way or the other how many or few cops there are. The PPB are basically setting their own priorities when it comes to traffic enforcement against motorists for violations, and it’s pretty clear where their priorities lie.