I am now officially a three-time loser.
For the third time in just over a year, my bike got stolen, this time in front of my posh Downtown Brooklyn offices.
The first time this happened, last June, the locked bike was stolen from in front of my house. Then, this March, a second locked bike was taken, this time from the garage of our DUMBO offices. After that incident, a Very Good Samaritan gave me a used bike, a gift that I celebrated in these pages.
But last Thursday, I returned to the bike rack in front of our building in Metrotech to find that set of wheels gone. The Kryptonite lock was still in place, but the Master Lock cable — the one that looked so impenetrable just a few days ago was severed like a piece of string.
Now, there will be those among you who will say this is a scam; that, given how some patron of the newspapering arts gave me a bike the last time, I’m playing the sympathy card for yet another two-wheeled donation.
You’re half right — it’s no scam, but I am playing the sympathy card. Three bikes in just over a year. That engenders some sympathy, no?
When I told my wife that my bike had been stolen — again! — she look at me as if I had just killed a man in a bar fight after a silly discussion of the best right fielders in Met history (Dave Kingman is NOT an unreasonable answer?).
“You lost another bike?!” she screamed. “How could you?!”
Notice that she didn’t say, “Those bastards violated your essential property rights and fractured our ever-fragile social contract,” but “You lost another bike?! How could you?!”
Clearly, it was time to call a shrink. But I don’t have one, so I called the closest thing that a bike rider has to a therapist nowadays: Wiley Norvell at Transportation Alternatives, who has counseled me through prior bike thefts.
First, he reassured me.
“I don’t think you’re a bad person,” he said.
I sensed a “but” coming.
“But you do have a problem with bike security.”
I have a problem?
“It does not sound as if you are locking your bike as smartly as you can,” he said diplomatically.
Norvell is a Titanic figure in the bike security community right now, having just been featured in a hopelessly over-earnest Wall Street Journal video on the subject, so I listened closely when he gave me his four-point strategy:
• Use two different types of locks because stealing a double-locked bike usually requires two tools.
• Overlap your locks, so even if one is smashed, the other is intact.
• Lock down different parts of your bike because bikes are designed to be taken apart.
• Carefully consider where you lock your bike. “If you’re a bike commuter,” he said, “locking in the same place is an invitation to theft because the thief knows that he has eight hours to get your bike.”
Ignoring for a moment that Norvell was suggesting that I only work an eight-hour day, he had a point. The bike that got stolen had actually been left overnight on the rack between Metrotech and the main Polytech building.
It was a mistake to leave it there overnight, but there are extenuating circumstances (there are, honey, I swear!). In fact, that bike would have been upstairs in my office had the real estate industry not fought Councilman David Yassky’s just-passed “Bikes in Buildings” bill, which allows commuters to bring their wheels inside their offices.
The long-delayed bill was finally signed into law earlier this month, but it doesn’t go in effect until Dec. 11 — and only under some circumstances.
First, your employer must formally request bike access from the building owner, a process that is fraught with office politics. Then the building owner can seek an exemption that would merely require a “sheltered” place for the bike within 750 feet of the front of the building.
That’s so watered-down that I’m worried about rust!
Norvell, of course, has the luxury of bike parking in his office.
“That is the biggest difference between me and you,” he said.
There’s another difference: Norvell never had a bike stolen — and I’ve had three.
“But I don’t think this makes you a bad person,” he concluded. “It stinks that we live in a city where the main hazard of biking is bike theft. But you can get through this with some common sense.”
Alas, perhaps we have finally identified the problem.
©2009 Community News Group
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