Peace of Mind

Intelligent Deterrence

Bike Theft

Heard across a street. Highly intelligent. A bike alarm like no other! $210 CAD. Direct from manufacturer: $120 CAD.

Updated: Saturday 6 August 2022

This page is an overview of the bicycle-theft problem.
There are various pages on this site with related information; for a how-to, see how to park, to avoid bike theft.

Causes

The problem of bicycle theft persists for several reasons:

  • lack of safe parking facilities;
  • an insufficient number of parking facilities;
  • inadequate security systems;
  • municipalities that pay less attention to fit-and-function than to the aesthetics of locking facilities;
  • law enforcement that does not, or cannot, view it as high-priority;
  • drugs, petty theft, addiction;
  • the lucrative trade in smuggling stolen bikes out of rich countries;
  • building owners with an unjustified prejudice against bicycles;
  • the decades-long hostility towards cyclists fostered by media for whom their single most significant source of income is based on cars and the housing that goes with it;
  • an historical attitude in North America that bicycles are either toys or for elite sports, not solid transportation that you should spend good money on taking care of;
  • electoral systems that toss out most of the votes, focusing instead on the type of person who can’t decide between even Obama and Bush!

The result is that, too often, people lose their bikes to an endless series of petty criminals and addicts aiming for a quick high or a paltry bit of cash, or to an international racket that ships to other countries. In some cities, you could go around and find the spots where stolen bikes are disassembled in full, public view!

Sometimes bikes may change hands four or five times in an hour.

https://www.thewestendjournal.ca/blog/2021/8/1/a-closer-look

Daytime Parking

An average cyclist needs an excessive level of knowledge for proper parking of a bicycle! If you doubt this, just walk/bike around town, observing how people park their bicycles. Nearly none parks properly! Either the locking is wrong, or the lock, or the spot, or the duration, or the time of day/night.

Overnight Parking

That was just for on-street parking! At home, many are even more vulnerable, naively parking their bikes in a bike room, bike cage, or “secure” parking beneath their building; or in the back yard; or in a garage or shed. All of these spots are perfect for thieves: They can scout them, choose a perfect time and day (often between midnight and dawn), and work at leisure, sometimes not even needing to keep quiet. No door lock or bike lock seems to stop them. With multiple fobs sometimes required for access, some victims naturally suspect their neighbours.

Some buildings even force this to happen, by including clauses in their leases or contracts that prohibit bikes from being taken into the apartments/condos. The justification for this is unknown, though one’d expect it to be the same sort of ignorance that has afflicted North America since the Fifties.

Countermeasure: Anchors

There is an assortment of anchors, installed by various municipalities, for locking your bicycle to. Too often, these fall short. Nearly none takes care of both wheels. Many provide for only the frame and the front wheel. Too many take care of only the frame! Some are merely for holding the bicycle vertical, resulting in only a single wheel (ie not even the frame) being lockable!

Countermeasure: Bike Lockers

There are some of these, here in Vancouver. I do not have personal experience with them; there are far too few. I expect that cost and space are factors in the latter. So long as nothing is left in one overnight, and the locker is highly-visible to passers-by (and transit staff), they may be fine. But, unless if you are multi-moding from suburbia, there is too much overhead to using one.

Countermeasure: Secure-Access Parking

Since I’m not in Utrecht, I have not had the pleasure of using a proper one. Recently (ca. 2020?), there have been some installed at some metro stations in Vancouver. As with bike lockers, they definitely are for multi-moders travelling a long distance. The local ones are small, so are equipped with only cameras rather than staff! Thankfully, the ones I’ve seen are glass-enclosed, thus the interior is highly visible to passers-by.

Countermeasure: Registration

This is a post-theft solution. The idea being that you register your bike with the local police, an app/entity (such as Project 529), or both; then, if the police happen upon your stolen bike, you can claim it. Without that registration, the police have no way of knowing that you were the owner–unless, I presume, you have the sales receipt showing the serial number.

So, there are a few ifs in there: if you have the proofs, and if the police find it, and if the bike is still recognizable/intact, and if you discover that the police found it. It may be in another country, disassembled for parts, or both. It may be hastily repainted.

It may well be months or years later. In the meantime, you’re emotionally ripped apart, and you need another bike–that, hopefully, won’t get stolen.

Countermeasures: Locks, Alarms, Trackers

I’ve covered existing bike-theft solutions already, and touch upon it in various posts on this site. Of course, I favour my own solution to bike theft, because I’ve designed it to tackle the moment of theft.

Countermeasure: Bait Bikes

You’d think that these would be used more, since police departments readily admit that the problem is out of hand. But, at least here in Vancouver, they seem to use cops watching in the vicinity! Unsurprisingly, this’d be too costly to sustain, and indeed they don’t!

Solutions are possible, of course, but I will not design them until after the M!nder succeeds in the market. The total cost of developing the latter is well over $400,000, thus far!

Bicycle Theft Videos

Well, there are lots of these, aren’t there! I don’t want to make this web page slow to load, so I am including only links to a few of the many noteworthy examples.

A City of London overview of bicycle lock security. It’s the usual let’s-break-an-assortment-of-locks kind of video. Keep in mind that most thieves don’t carry a variety of tools. It’s typically a bolt cutter, and not the largest one; something that’ll easily fit in a backpack. An angle grinder is portable, too, but an opportunity thief might soon sell it for cash/drugs; only organized, career bike-thieves might hang on to a grinder.

The above video does not go over bike-jackings, which is of unfortunate prevalence thereabouts. And don’t lose hope: The police smilingly surveying their impotence leaves the viewer with an impression that bike theft is impossible to tackle. Far from it: Most daytime thefts are just opportunity thefts, with little preparation. They’re as unsophisticated than this grinning ‘heist’!

This is another, uh, survey of different approaches to bicycle theft.

Hospitals and train stations are a favourite of bicycle thieves. Lots of bikes, and lots of time, perhaps. This one is a rare insight into bicycle theft from a hospital. This one lasted a full eight minutes.

There are lots of videos of theft from bicycle shops, with the camera impotently watching. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen/heard an alarm go off in any of them! In this one, a very casual approach to bicycle theft, the alarm goes off after only the 6th minute!

Swapping your bicycle with another, at the bike rack.

There are lots of videos on thefts from underground parking, or garages. I can’t even be bothered to select one of the innumerable many! There are also Facebook ‘Stolen Bike’ groups that frequently post from someone whose bike got stolen from one of these locations secured for thieves.

… All right, I’m going to contradict myself and include a video. You just can’t get a clearer picture of what is going on, here in Vancouver. Just mute the sound, and watch:

Bicycle thief stealing several bikes from a bike cage.

The Business of Bike Theft

Organized gangs focus on high-end bikes, or large volumes of bicycles, or both. International transport may often be involved, taking the stolen goods from rich countries to less well-off countries. Steal from Germany, sell in Ukraine! A boatload of bikes going from Montreal to Haiti! Typically, temporary storage (paid storage-lockers, a garage or a warehouse) is used for accumulation, prior to shipping.

Addicts & homeless thieves include both opportunity thieves (see it, grab it) and the semi-organized. This Los Angeles Times’ article on a semi-organized system of stealing bicycles and processing them in homeless encampments is a somewhat deeper illustration of this.

I feel compelled to remark on the rightful concern of many about pointing an accusatory finger at ‘the homeless’ or at people suffering from addiction. Much of my life has been spent in a fringe or another. The fringe attracts not only those who choose it for ideological/cultural reasons, or those without an option, but also those who find it a good place to hide their selves/deeds. Ignoring the latter is misdirected compassion. Furthermore, as in any group, sometimes the indefensible becomes the norm!

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