- JOHN METCALFE
- May 23, 2017
Cain Ramirez was making his way through San Jose a while back when he came upon a curious sight: a bicycle fixed high up on a chain-link fence, suggesting the owner had locked it on the sidewalk right before a California fault line suddenly shifted to raise it out of reach.
“It was suspended five feet in the air as if [the owner] hopped on a chair, locked it up, and walked off,” says Ramirez, cofounder of San Jose’s Cowgirl Bike Courier. “I just stood there looking at it for a few minutes. I was like, You know, it’s not a particularly great bike, but that is a great deal of dedication. I got to take my hat off to that.”
Bike theft remains an enduring problem across the U.S. with the FBI recognizing 210,905 cases in 2014—a number that is undoubtedly low, given that many victims don’t report this type of crime.
The Bay Area is no different from other major urban areas in that it’s besieged by bike bandits, chop shops, and sometimes even the occasional pirate “warehouse” concealing hundreds of ripped-off cycles. The local news has reported that a bike goes missing every three hours in San Francisco; in San Jose, a recent rash of impressively executed bike thefts has left some wondering if a gang of professionals is preying on the city. Downtown San Jose saw more than seven thefts in a single week this May. “The thieves never leave the locks,” Cain says, “so you can’t tell if they’re freezing them, angle-grinding them, or pressuring them out with some kind of lever.”
You could invest a dump truck of cash in anti-theft systems and, short of having your bike defended by soldiers wielding missile batteries, a determined crook can still make off with it in relatively little time. There’s nothing you can do to totally thief-proof a bike. However, there are things—sometimes even inexpensive, small steps—that make theft much less likely. Three seasoned Bay Area bike pros offered CityLab their thoughts on buttressing bike security.