Bike theft is in high season, and the past few weeks have offered a shocking amount of encounters.
#1: Two weeks ago a gentleman purchased a bike at our Brooklyn store. The next day he pedaled over to see us at our Manhattan location. He locked his new bike up outside using a cable lock, browsed the store for 30 minutes – and when he went outside, all he had was a cut cable. In retrospect, he realized that our staff had advised him to get a better lock than the one he had used. He ended up buying a replacement bike – and, lesson learned, a higher quality lock.
#2: A few days later, a woman stopped by our Manhattan store to get something for the mountain bike she had purchased from us a while back. From outside of the city, she drove in to Soho and parked just down the block. She left her bike on her car rack, self-locked with a good U-lock but attached to the car rack with only a cable lock. About 20 minutes later, one of our street-wise staffers, Jason, walks into our store carrying her bike. Turns out he had happened to walk by her car just as a person was clipping the cable from the rack and about to walk off with her bike. Jason confronted him. The guy was not quick to back down but after a second he tossed the bike at Jason and sprinted off. Our customer was overjoyed to learn that Jason, not the thief, had the bike.
#3: Only a few days later, theft happened to our staff. This hits home that no matter how street smart you are, you can still be a victim. Brian has been a bike messenger and he knows the ways of city cycling. He works a few days a week at Habitat, and works the rest of the week in the food delivery industry. His bike is a highly personalized green Bianchi. In his neighborhood running errands, to save time he had locked his bike in front of his window. When he went back out to go for a run, his bike was gone. Heartbroken and angry, he spread the word about his stolen bike. Coincidentally, Aine, a beloved staffer here on work visa from Ireland, was browsing Craigslist (a seeming hot bed of stolen bikes for sale) when she saw a posting meeting the description of Brian’s bike. Brian called the seller and at the same time, his friend, a detective. Soon thereafter, the detective was able to return Brian’s bike to him. The thief was busted on some outstanding warrants. (Though he claimed that he lived in New Jersey and insisted he’d bought the bike from some “unknown party.”)
#4: A twist: I end up being the bike thief. A kid comes into our Soho store, maybe 15 – 16 years old. He is acting suspicious. I see him lift a lock off the wall and slip it under his coat. He starts to leave and so I suggest he pay for the lock. He pulls the lock out and puts it back on the wall. I escort him out, take his picture and tell him if he comes in again I will have him arrested for trespassing. I then tell him to get away from the store. I head back inside, and a few minutes later he is still outside standing over his bike, talking to another rider who I presume is his friend. I go outside to shoo them away. I pull out my cell phone and call 911; the kid then hops off the bike and takes off running. I am dumfounded. I shrug and take the bike into the shop. I don’t sell used bikes for this reason (too many of them are hot) and will instead have to send it off to Recycle-A-Bicycle.
#5: Just a few days ago, a guy comes in to tell us how he had locked his bike just up the street, in front of REI and when he came out of REI, his bike was gone. The REI staff was less than sympathetic to his plight. (Rookies!) He then bought a new bike from us. And a good lock.
Five memorable encounters in just two short weeks; I’m sure there were a thousand others throughout the city. Get a bike, ride it and lock it with a good lock. Here are a few tips on how to lock your bike, and also a popular video series from our mechanic Hal Ruzal.
If you have any questions please stop by to ask any of us. At Habitat we know what works and what doesn’t. Most of us have had bikes stolen and we know the heartbreak it can cause. And we want you to be confident riding your bike. Don’t let thieves deter you from making the most of how wonderful riding in the city can be.