Bike thefts are on the rise. Bikes are an easy target for street thieves. Placing bike rack parking in a highly visible location can deter thefts. So can a huge pair of eyes.
First the bike rack parking strategy. Thieves are always on the lookout for easy prey. That is their nature. If they see a bike locked to a fence in back of a business or sitting behind a fence in an open yard, they are going to strike.
The solution. Secure, sturdy bike racks. Placed in highly, visible locations.
Sure, it may be easy for some customers to lock their bike somewhere behind a business. Attach it to a water meter or a fence or a tree.
But when that customer’s bike gets ripped off, they are not going to be happy. No business wants unhappy customers. No one wants an unhappy customer who vents his frustration on social media and tells all his friends how his bike got ripped off behind Cindy’s Cappuccino and Cupcakes Shop. In their mind, Cindy’s is no longer the place to go.
But what if Cindy installed a wave bike rack for five bikes in front of her business? Less than 50 feet from her front door. In line of sight for people sitting down to have a caramel cappuccino and coconut cupcake.
Wouldn’t that create a pleasant and welcome experience for bicycling customers? Wouldn’t a wave bike rack attract bicyclists to park their bikes in front of Cindy’s Cappuccino and Cupcakes Shop? And since they are now parked, why not stop in for a cup of coffee before they venture elsewhere or when they return.
Not only is bike rack parking good for bicycles, they’re great for businesses. Consider this as well – you can fit about 18 bikes in a single car parking area. That’s like adding a convenient way for dozens of customers to frequent your business. And bicyclists are a tight knit group. They are going to tell their friends about the bike rack parking at Cindy’s coffee shop.
However, there still is the problem of stolen bikes. Perhaps you can’t locate bike rack parking right in front of your business. Or perhaps, you manage a university where there are hundreds of bike racks and still there are hundreds of bike thefts.
Arizona State University for example, reported that 503 bike were stolen on campus in one year. Repeat that same scenario across hundreds of universities in this country alone.
Most bike thefts go unreported. The FBI estimates the real number of bicycles thefts is about one million annually. That’s indicative of a MAJOR crime wave.
Put a pair of eyes overlooking bike rack parking
So here’s one more strategy to consider. If you can’t put a live pair of eyes watching the bikes from a storefront window, consider adding a poster with a big pair of eyes staring down.
In a two-year experiment, the security manager at Newcastle University in England placed a poster with two huge watchful eyes looking over nearby bike rack parking.
Researchers who participated in the experiment reported that thefts at the bike racks dropped a whopping 62%. More than a three/fifths decrease. That’s huge.
Conversely, bike racks where the eye posters were not located, saw an increase of 63% (how’s that for a coincidence?).
Okay, we’re going to say it – “the eyes have it.”
Doesn’t have to be an eye. Why not use an “electronic eye” and place a camera with a sign over the bikes? A big sign. You don’t have to tell the thieves this. But you could try this approach without even hooking up the camera to a computer monitor or recorder. Make it a fake eye.
Now, with visible, sturdy bike rack parking in plain view coupled with a pair of eyes, on a poster or in a webcam, you have a major deterrent to bike theft. The bikes are no longer easy prey.
While thieves are getting greedier and more clever with their lock-cutting tools, police are also getting more vigilant. So are groups of bicyclists.
For example, in New Orleans, there’s a Facebook group called Stolen Bikes NOLA that posts pictures of stolen bikes and more brazenly, mug shots of arrested bike thieves.
In fact, acting on tips, this group has even tracked down houses that served as chop shops for stolen bikes and reported them to police.
There are also many Twitter sites devoted to posting stolen bikes and recoveries. Like Stolen Bikes Indy here. A fantastic use of social media.
Groups have also met with police to make sure they pay attention to this growing trend of walking away with someone’s else’s bicycle. Again in New Orleans, advocates have asked police to tighten up their bike sale laws.
For example, if someone sells a bicycle to a bicycle shop, all the shop owner has to do is ask for a name and address. Imagine how many “R. U. Kiddings” and “GoodLuck N. Kathchinmes” wrote down their names and disappeared.
Bike advocates want the shop owners to photocopy a driver’s license or photo ID as well. Put some teeth in that requirement.
Another suggestion is to ask police to conduct stolen bike stings from time to time. They usually know where the thefts occur (or tell them). Thieves generally return to the same spots for easy pickings. Nail them in the act.
Ironically, in one town, a thief brought in a bicycle to a local bike shop to sell, only to discover the bicycle was owned by one of the employees who just reported it stolen. Thank you very much.
Bicyclists are fed up. There is something really personal when someone steals a fellow human’s bike. I imagine in the Old West days, it was similar to stealing a horse. People get attached to their bicycles. Thieves care less and will take a very good and expensive bicycle and dismantle it for parts…and a few measly bucks.
Fight back. Get your town and local businesses to install commercial-grade bike rack parking. Put eyes on those bike racks. Be sure the police have officers dedicated to tracking down bike thieves. Organize fellow riders to watch for missing bicycles.
You worked hard to acquire a bicycle that is a perfect fit for your needs and tastes. These strategies work in stopping criminals from deciding they want to own that bicycle as well.