Peace of Mind

Intelligent Deterrence

How to: Safe Parking for Bicycles

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

Updated: Saturday 6 August 2022

Safe Parking

Never park your bike!
You’re never 100% safe. In some countries, you should even avoid riding your bike, since there are bike jackings!

Less Unsafe Parking

Many different factors go into lessening the risk of parking your bicycle. There are different takes on this; the following is mine.

Rule of thumb: Avoid Time & Quiet. Ideal conditions for a thief is when he has plenty of time to work on the bike, and no-one disturbs him.

What

The pricier the bike, the more attractive, the newer, the rarer, then the more appealing it’ll be to a thief. He’ll put more effort into it. He might stalk the rider, or plan ahead (for days, weeks or more), or fetch/acquire better tools. It’s a pile of cash, left outside; the rewards are well worth the effort.

Where

Underground bike rooms/cages mean that your bike _will_ eventually be stolen. The same goes for apartment buildings’ storage lockers.
Underground, public parking might cause the same fate.
Parking in a shady part of town, the skid row, or any blighted, high-crime area, amounts to blood in the water.
The business district may pose less risk, subject to the other considerations.
Anywhere with few passers-by is a bad idea.
Anywhere where they expect you to be away for a long time can be a bad idea.
Shopping malls with large parking lots are a bad idea. You’re going to be inside for a long time, and there may be very few people around. And the bike racks are often out of the way.
Areas which have suffered bike-thefts in the past, _will_ be hit again. And thieves have favourite hunting grounds.
The tail-gate of pick-up trucks, rear car-racks, top car-racks, front yards and back yards are all vulnerable. Given a $1000 prize, cars get stalked, and yards get surveilled.
It should go without saying that beaches, festivals and the like are a bad idea, unless if you can keep a very regular watch on the bike.
Popular spots for parking bikes require extra caution: the thieves know where to target, and the clutter hides their misdeeds.

When

Soggy, cold, miserable winter days are best. Pleasant days are worst.
Daytime is best, the cover of dark is worst. Even early evening is bad.

How

There must be reliable bike anchors available.
Subject to the other conditions, you could get away with locking only the frame. But the best, overall approach is to lock the frame, and a wheel, to a dependable anchor. The less safe the other conditions, the more likely that you will need to lock _both_ wheels.
In general, the more frequent configuration for me has been to lock the frame and the _front_ wheel (to an anchor, of course). This is much easier than locking the rear wheel, and suits a greater variety of anchors.
A U-lock is obligatory, of course.
Cable locks are to be avoided. If you’ve spent $2000 on an ebike, yet use only a cable lock (even a ‘beefy-looking’ one), you’re asking for the inevitable!
There _are_ more ‘convenient’ locks, such as HipLok. These are ideal for specific scenarios, _if_ you know what you’re doing; otherwise, they should be avoided by beginners and those who’ve suffered theft before.
A word of caution on anchors: if you park at the same spot, every weekday, using a rack bolted to the ground, a thief might loosen the bolts, and wait for you to park! The same goes for street furniture such as stop signs.
Floor anchors are an option for cargo bikes, when at home. These require drilling through a concrete floor–and you’ll need heavy chains as well, of course.
In the U.K., there is Plant Lock, for parking in your yard.

How Long

Never park overnight, outside your apartment. Period.

Yards, sheds and house garages are very vulnerable, especially the latter two. The longer you leave your $1000, the more inevitable the theft will become. If you’re going on a vacation, take the bike _inside_ your house!

The longer your parking, the sturdier the anchor will need to be.
The longer your parking, the more of your bike you’ll need to lock: for a quick in-and-out, you might not need to lock both wheels; for an hour or more, you will.

Assessment

Assessment of each parking situation has to be made by factoring-in all of the above. _All_ of them! I’ll attempt to illustrate, via a few examples. Note that I have several bikes; you might not, but you’ll understand the point made.

  • I have to park for an hour, in daytime, at a busy location, on a pleasant day with lots of passers-by, in a city with high bike-theft, in an area with active thieves. I’d avoid taking a pretty bike, instead I’ll use a more utilitarian bike, and will lock it with a good U-lock. The front wheel will be taken off, to be locked to the rear, the frame, and a reliable anchor.
  • I am going in and out of a shop, for five minutes, at a routine location, not far from my home, on a cold, rainy day, in a city with high bike-theft, in an area not typically targeted by thieves, in daytime, and I have a utilitarian, old bike. I’ll use a cable lock, but will nervously check if the five minutes stretches! (This is _very_ risky, because all it takes is for the wrong person, with even a short bolt-cutter or tin snip, to happen to be walking past: In _seconds_, he can cut the cable lock, and ride away!) If the shop is farther, making the trip more of a ‘trek’/chore, I’ll be arsed to carry a U-lock!
  • I am going to a cinema, on a darkening evening. Though I _have_ biked for this on rare occasions, I’d rather take public transit! A bike will need a very strong U-lock, an excellent anchor, four-point check (see below), passers-by, and hopefully miserable cold rain! And that’s in an average city in Canada.
  • I am looking for an apartment/condo, and the contract disallows me from keeping my bike inside my apartment, pointing to a secure, underground bike cage. I walk away, to find another apartment.

Leave your bike at home if a particular trip cannot solve the problems. Take transit, multi-mode with a folder (folding bike), or take a cheaper bike. Take a push-scooter if you can catch public transit. Use your bike on routes for which you’ve solved the problems; use other options for those odd trips/days where/when you’re doing something else.

Four-point Check

Given a dependable anchor, the best locking scenario is to ensure that the frame, and both wheels, are locked to the anchor. Thus, within the ‘D’ of the U-lock/D-lock will pass
1. front wheel
2. rear wheel
3. frame
4. anchor.
Yes, this means that I take the front wheel off, for locking to everything else.

Addendum

The London Fixed Gear and Single-Speed forum has an excellent page on bike theft which echoes many of the points, above. Keeping in mind their UK location, the following are some quotes:

Most bikes are stolen from homes, e.g. garden sheds or communal storage, not from the street…. If possible, keep bikes in your flat or inside your house, not in insecure outbuildings or in communal storage facilities

lfgss.com

Communal bike storage is not in itself secure. Whether it is or not depends on how it is managed…. Bear in mind that if thieves come in the night to a communal bike storage facility, they will most likely be undisturbed for hours and can steal, and have stolen, a large number of bikes in one burglary.

lfgss.com

Be wary of communal bike storage clusters in courtyards or under overhangs

lfgss,com

Generally, thieves like predictability. If you leave your bike in the same spot every day, or even in the same area, a thief may well notice and prepare to steal it, noting how it is locked and bringing the right tools as well as choosing a suitable time to attempt the theft.

lfgss.com
Scroll to top