The FBI estimates 1 million bicycles are stolen every year and here is a video on “How to Lock Your Bicycle Properly to a Bike Parking Rack” that could prevent you from becoming another unfortunate victim.
The FBI says that a bike is ripped off every three minutes. On college campuses, bike thefts usually top the list for stolen items.
Street crime is on the rise when it comes to bike thefts. One reason, according to Priceonomics, is that the chance of being caught or going to jail is relatively risk-free.
Another factor in the equation is that with the recent advancements in bicycle manufacturing, such as the use of lightweight carbon frames, people are now purchasing more expensive bicycles. Some run in the thousands of dollars, which makes this sideline very lucrative for criminals. Sadly, many crooks will sell these bikes for five to ten cents on the dollar.
The good news is that there are strategies you can use to protect your ride. Many of them are just simple common sense. But if you are a bicyclist, you should follow this advice, no matter whether you live in a big city or a small town.
Best practices for locking to a bike parking rack
- Buy a proper lock. Thin cable locks are a thing of the past. Today, you want a super strong, sturdy lock. The preferred device is a hardened metal U-lock. This type of locking device is highly recommended by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. Another option is a thick, heavy duty chain with a strong padlock. However, be warned. Even these items can be cut by clever criminals. But it will take them longer to do so. If they see other bicycles with flimsy locks, chances are they will go for those first.
- Use more than one lock. Another way to visibly deter thieves is with more than one lock. Use a U-lock in the front of the bike to lock the bike frame and front tire to a bicycle parking rack. Then use another U-lock or heavy lock to secure the back tire to the bike parking rack. Other experts say lock the back wheel and frame to a commercial bike rack and then use a cable lock or another U-lock to secure the front wheel to the bike rack or even just to the frame. That’s twice as much work (and time) for a thief. As we said, if there are easier pickings nearby, they will probably aim for those. If you have a quick-release front wheel, then remove it and lock it to a bike parking rack alongside the rear wheel.
- Always use three points of locking contact. The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals also recommends that bicycles should be secured with THREE touch points. Lock the bike frame to the bike parking rack but also include the front wheel. Desperate criminals will steal just a wheel if given the opportunity.
- Find a proper, immovable bike rack, not a tree or a sign. Sure, at times you are in a hurry. Can’t seem to find a place to park your bike. Or, just plan to run into a store for a second. Well, there are people out there looking exactly for people like you. Lock a bike to a skinny tree, they will cut it down. Leave a bike unattended for a second, they will be waiting right around the corner to grab it. And remember, bicycles give thieves a convenient way to flee the scene quickly.
If you attach a bike to a sign, watch out. Criminals create what they call “sucker poles.” These are signs they have pulled out of the ground earlier, just waiting for an unsuspecting bicyclist to lock their bike. Thieves will then lift the sign out of the ground and ride off with the bike.
The other danger of locking a bicycle to a sign is not from criminals, but from city employees. In many cities, maintenance crews are instructed to remove any bicycles that are attached to public property and confiscate the bikes. Sure, you can get the bike back, but chances are you will have to pay a hefty fine.
- Choose the right type of outdoor bike rack. Not all bike racks are the same. They come in a variety of styles and designs and are built for specific time frames. For example, grid bike racks with the “comb-like” appearance are generally built for short-term parking. These grid racks don’t provide adequate ways to lock a bicycle securely with three points of locking contact. Consider wave bicycle racks or u-racks with thicker metal frames. Even those bike racks are only considered adequate for a few hours of parking. For long-term parking or overnight parking, it is best to secure a bicycle in a bicycle locker or locked bike room. As we said, every bike lock can be cut, given enough time and resources. A new type of bicycle parking invention offered by The Park and Facilities Catalog is an “UpLift” bike dock. These unique bike racks are designed with wheel troughs to hold bicycles upright and maximize the number of bicycles that can be parked per square foot. Locking arms made with thickened steel are conveniently located higher up the frame to provide an easy way to utilize those critical three points of locking contact.
- Park in a well-lit area that is visible. Bicycle thieves like shadows and low-lit areas. Avoid them. For businesses that want to offer commercial bicycle racks (which is always a smart strategy to draw more customers), it’s best to install a bike parking rack within 50 feet of the establishment. Place that commercial bike rack out front or near windows where people can watch their bicycles from inside. Don’t install a bike rack in alleys or tucked away in hidden corners, it will just invite trouble. (By the way, some cities, such as Portland, will provide free bicycle parking racks to businesses that want to provide a way for bicyclists to frequent an area. This encourages more people to bicycle than drive, and that’s always a great improvement for any town).
- Register your bicycle. Take photos of your bicycle. Record serial numbers. Hide a distinguishing identification mark and document it. Then go to the local police department or campus police and register your bicycle. There is also a national bicycle registry at www.Project529.com.
- Get an ugly bike. If you know your bicycle is going to be parked at one spot for a long time, perhaps that’s the time to travel with your second favorite bicycle. Thieves know the top brands that will give them the most cash. If your bike is the least attractive of the bunch, it will probably be passed over.
- Add some unique flair to your bike. Another deterrent is to individualize your bicycle. Paint it a bright color or add an unusual element. The last thing a criminal wants to do is attract attention. A unique bicycle that stands out as they pedal down the street will not be their first choice.
- If stolen, report immediately…and not just to the police. Most bike thefts go unreported and thieves know this. However, that is another reason why this crime has escalated so much in recent years. Do the right thing and report your stolen bike to police. Many times they know who is stealing bicycles and where the resale spots are located. They might have a way to track down your bicycle quickly. Or, they can issue an alert to watch for your bike. Also report a stolen bicycle on social media. The bicycling community is a tight one. Post photos of your stolen bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. This will create a huge pool of people who can watch out for your bicycle on local streets. Also, be sure to alert bike shops and check Craigslist for any new listings on bicycles that might be similar to yours.
More people ride bicycles today than ever before. Statista says there are about 67 million Americans who reported they have bicycled in the past 12 months.
All these bicycles create more opportunities for bike thieves. But if the public can be educated on the proper steps on how to lock a bike and where to lock a bike, this thievery can be stopped.
“At the Park and Facilities Catalog many of us are avid bicyclists and we know that losing a bicycle can be a devastating experience,” said Chris Luyet, Vice President and General Manager. “Share this ‘How To Lock Your Bike’ video with friends and family and you might just prevent another bike from being stolen.”
Note: For any universities or municipalities that are interested in offering this bike security video with their own logo and information, please contact The Park and Facilities Catalog.
The Park Catalog is designated as a Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists.