Hatmandu has a new bicycle. Because of the cost of the thing—ironically, he paid a good deal of the folding stuff for it, do you see what I did there—he naturally wants to know how best to prevent it being stolen, and coincidentally to read some anecdotes on others’ experience with cycle theft (either to put his mind at rest or spur him to action; it isn’t clear). Among the tales of woe, lisekit mentions her ex’s bike being stolen and returned. It looks like there might be more victims of transitory bike theft than I thought (This might bore the hat off mandu, as he’s heard it already.)
While spending a weekend away in London some years ago I’d locked my bike to a railing by Magdalen College, for reasons of transport convenience which escape me. The college has semicircular grids round each of its street-facing drainpipes, possibly to protect them as one does with young saplings. My lock at the time was rather feeble—a metal-cable spiral encased in plastic—but then the bicycle wasn’t worth much, an ex-rental model, the bottom bracket of which had all but collapsed and which had two wheels that wobbled on their axels. It didn’t cross my mind, however, that any thief would be more likely to spot its garish, spangly paintwork and not have time to check out its inner workings.
As I returned in the London coach I forgot, briefly, where I’d left my bike, and ended up at the coach station. Luckily for this gripping tale I remembered on Broad Street, and was walking along Queen’s Lane (between Magdalen and the Bodleian Library, roughly) when I spotted my sad-looking lock lying in the pavement, snipped neatly by bolt-cutters. I reached the college to find that, of course, the bike wasn’t there. My heart sank for a few moments, until I thought: it must have been cycled along Queen’s Lane, where the lock had been dropped. Was it worth retracing the thief’s journey?
Five minutes later I found the bike resting against the racks outside the New Bodleian building. Clearly the thief had struggled against the gluelike consistency of the pedalling action, far enough to realise that there was no resale in anything but the core frame if that, and decided to dump it. As lisekit reports, there tends to be an odd chivalry in the discarding of the stolen goods: it was left on the racks, undamaged (well, not damaged any further) and inconspicuous; the chap could simply have left it anywhere along the way, at the mercy of other hardened crims, or wrapped it round a lamp-post, purely for bus-shelter-vandalising punk kicks.
Nowadays I recommend black masking tape to visually age a new bike, and of course the child-seat trick I suggested to hatmandu. I’ve done neither of these with my current bike, though, and haven’t had it stolen yet. Proof positive, therefore, that statistics for bike theft have gone down 100% in the past ten years. Evidence, if ever it were needed, that New Labour have made the country a safer place. Welcome to Blair’s Britian.