From The Point Archives
This story originally appeared in the June/July 2017 print edition of The Point
Shawn Wood has been a victim of bicycle theft three times in his life, twice in the same city when he was a student, and most recently when he commuted via bike to work in Burlington before moving to Hamilton. He describes the experiences as “demoralizing really, and you feel angry, especially when your bike is your chief means of getting around and you don’t have extra money sitting around to replace it. It’s a pretty low thing for someone to do.”
After a scroll through the posts on the Crown Point/Homeside Neighbourhood Watch Facebook page, one could conclude that bike thefts seem to happen to people of all ages and incomes and they tend to increase during the warmer months. So what can we do about it? To learn about what can be done both preventative and after a loss, I spoke with Johanna Bleecker, Education & Community Outreach Coordinator at New Hope Community Bikes. I asked her how to thwart thieves and, if your bike is stolen, how to enhance your chances for recovery.
E. S. Are there special locks that you would recommend over others?
J. B. Have a good lock and know how to use it. Cable locks are very easily cut through in almost no time—even the thickest ones. A U-lock, chain lock
(specially made bike chain locks, not just chain and padlock from the hardware store), or folding locks are your best bets. Make sure that your lock is always passing through the frame, not just the wheel, though you should also try and lock your wheels, either by buying a large enough lock or buying a secondary cable lock to fasten your wheels to the frame so no one can walk off with them. There are also locking systems you can get that will replace quick-release skewers on wheels, seat post bolts, or saddle bolts so that they all need a key to open. The brand we carry is called Pinhead. I use them on my own wheels and have had no problems so far. Locks can be expensive—sometimes more than a cheap bike—but if you save $20 by buying a cheaper cable lock instead of a U-lock and then the bike gets stolen, you’ll have to pay for the bike and lock all over again. Think of it as an investment!
E.S. Are there any technological solutions on the market that you think
people should know about?
J. B. In terms of technological investment, I’ve heard of GPS trackers for bikes but they tend to be expensive and the battery needs to stay charged. I haven’t really had much experience with them.
E.S. What should cyclists be mindful of when parking or storing their bike?
J.B. Do your best to store your bikes inside your home. We’ve heard several
stories lately of bikes getting stolen out of sheds or backyards, and any bike regularly locked out on the street overnight is not long for this world. Having a cheap beater bike that you don’t care about too much will be very handy for if you have to leave your bike locked up outside overnight. At New Hope Community Bikes we sell used adult bikes starting at $50, and we have lots of customers who have had their expensive bikes stolen and have decided it’s more worth it to have a cheap bike they can use for leaving at the GO station, locking outside, etc. Also, make sure that whatever it is you’re locking to is solid. I’ve heard of thieves cutting up trees that had bikes locked to them, and sometimes signposts and poles aren’t bolted down as firmly as you’d imagine—I’ve found a couple loose stands on the bike rack in front of the Central Library on York Boulevard, for example, and that’s a known hot spot for thieves. If you’re locking your bike to a shorter pole, thieves can just lift the bike up and off the pole.
E.S. Do you know if having cameras in the area actually help to discourage thieves?
J.B. I don’t know if cameras help very much—maybe more as a deterrent than actually tracking down the perpetrator. We’ve had some thefts at our shop which has cameras and usually thieves keep their hoods on or cover their faces so there’s not too much to go on.
E.S. When a bike is stolen, what are some things that one can do to try and get it back?
J.B. Make sure you have your bike’s serial number and a photo of the bike handy should it get stolen. The Hamilton Police have this form on their website (https://hamiltonpolice.on.ca/sites/default/files/bike_guard_form.pdf) that they encourage you to fill out now and keep on file so if the bike is stolen you can just bring the form right in to police with all the information filled out already. If the police reclaim bikes through a raid your chances of getting reunited with your bike are pretty good. You can also keep an eye on Kijiji. Hamilton and neighbouring cities have large-scale thieving operations that will truck bikes to other municipalities to decrease their chances of getting found. Putting the word out on Facebook can help as well— I once found a bike on the street that a thief had ditched and was able to reunite it with the owner through his post on a local cycling Facebook group. Bikes are often covered by renter’s/home insurance so make sure you keep your original receipts and you may be able to get reimbursed. Some lock brands also come with insurance.
E.S. Thanks Johanna!
J.B. Happy riding, and be sure to take the extra steps to keep your bike secure, at home and out in the neighbourhood.
You can also view this article within the June/July 2017 print edition of The Point. See page 9.