Meet Matt Freedman of the San Francisco Police Department. He’s at the forefront of the city’s efforts to combat bike thieves, as he explains in this video from the New York Times.
SFPD, like many forces, is using bikes planted on the street and observed covertly to help catch thieves. But they’ve taken the idea one step further.
“If we want people to get out and ride their bikes, they have to get out without fear of them getting stolen,” says Freedman. So as well as ‘bait bikes’ equipped with GPS trackers and under surveillance, he’s issuing thousands of stickers to San Francisco’s cyclists.
‘Is this a bait bike?’ the stickers say.
Freedman says: “The idea is to let thieves know that any bike at any time in the city of San Francisco could be one of our bait bikes, so if you steal a bike you better believe we’re gonna be coming for you.”
SFPD has created a website at safebikes.org with lots of good advice hanging on to your bike.
Over the years we’ve compiled what we think is the definitive set of anti bike theft tips, with input from the road.cc community, so here it is again to cut out and keep.
The road.cc community Bike Locking Bible
- Lock your bike to a secure, immovable object. Trees and certain pieces of street furniture don’t make particularly good locking locations; trees limbs can be sawed through, and your bike can often be lifted over bollards and signposts.
- Your wheels are the most vulnerable part of your bike. Make sure that your lock goes through both wheels and the frame, or use two locks: one for each wheel. Alternatively you can invest in a locking wheel skewer for your front wheel.
- It doesn’t take long to steal a bike. Make sure that you lock your bike up properly whether you are leaving it for 30 seconds or half an hour.
- Bike lights and other items and accessories that are not secured to your bike are easy pickings for thieves. Take them with you whenever you leave your bike.
- No matter how safe you feel in your home, your bike is still at risk, especially if it’s in your garage or your shed. Lock it up at home like you would if you were on the street.
- Not all bike locks are cheap, but you really do get what you pay for. If you treasure your bike, buying the best locks that you can afford would be a wise investment.
- If you come back to your bike and it's got a mysterious puncture or damage, walk it home. It's probably been marked in the hope that you'll leave it there overnight.
- Consider using a registration service, such as Bike Register, to physically mark your bike with an identifying feature and link it to your identity on the police database. Certain councils and police constabularies offer free solutions, and there are alternatives to Bike Register.
- If it does go missing you must report it. The police will only take bike crime more seriously if they have reason to do so.
- If you're down to one lock, or are particularly worried about the security of your wheel, taking your front wheel with you eliminates half of the risk of theft immediately.
- Use secure bike parking wherever possible. Even for a price, your bike will be far better protected from theft inside a designated secure location rather than on the street, no matter how well you think you’ve locked it up.
- Make sure that you lock your bike up in as public of a place as possible. If you leave it in a secluded location, it will give any would-be thief time to work on your lock undisturbed.
- Make the lock mechanism itself hard to access. For example if you're locking your bike to railings, point the lock mechanism away from the street so it's harder for a thief to attack.
- Don't leave space in your shackle - any extra space gives evil bike stealing tools the room they need to do their dirty work. Don't give them that opportunity.
- If you’ve taken out insurance on your bike don’t buy any old lock. Make sure that the locks that you have purchased are featured on Sold Secure’s approved products list as many insurance companies insist on their use.
- But most importantly, wherever you’re going, please do not forget your lock!
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.