Don’t Get Your Bike Clipped This Spring

There is something you can do to decrease the chances you become a victim

Bike Locking Right and Wrong
Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition

Spring is here and that means more people will be using their bicycle to get around.

But with more bikes on the streets and parked on the sidewalk, comes the opportunity for more thefts.

Bike thefts are on the rise -- more than five bikes are taken a day, on average, in the city -- and there is something everyone can do to try and turn things around: Lock up their bikes the right way.


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According to the most recent FBI Uniformed Crime Report statistics, nearly 200,000 bikes were stolen in 2012, up 3 percent from 2011. Overall, 3.4 percent of all reported thefts or larcenies in the northeast region of the United States involve bikes.

Experts estimate the number of actual bicycle thefts to be far higher. Some predict more than one million bikes are stolen nationwide annually since people don’t report bike thefts believing that they won’t get their ride back.

“Bike thefts are a problem,” said Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition spokesman Nicholas Mirra. “We are on an ongoing process trying to work with the police department.”

Despite efforts to decrease thefts, bike thefts have increased annually over the past five-plus years from 1,787 in 2008 to 1,976 last year a 10.6 percent increase overall, according to Philadelphia Police. This year the trend seems destined to continue since nearly 1,800 bikes have already gone missing.

Many bikes get locked up but go missing because the cyclist doesn’t properly lock the bike. The Bicycle Coalition says to "make sure your wheels (and seat post if it’s quick-release) are locked to your frame, and your frame is locked to something sturdy over which your bike cannot be lifted."

(For an example of proper techniques check out the photo above.)

Part of proper locking techniques include looping a U-lock through not only the tire but also the frame and using a cable lock to link in the other wheel. Heavy duty chain locks are also an option. Basically, you want to ensure that you make it difficult for a thief to remove the frame from the wheel or vice-versa.

According to the Bicycle Coalition, bikes get clipped -- another way to say taken -- for a variety of reasons besides not properly locking up or not locking at all including locking your bike to a place it doesn’t belong.

“In Philly you are allowed to lock to what’s called ‘street furniture,’” Mirra said. “You are allowed to lock to parking meters, poles and bike racks that are in the sidewalk, that’s public space, so if it’s a sign that says ‘2-hour parking’ you’re allowed to lock your bike to it as long as you’re not blocking the pedestrian right of way.”

It is also a smart to park in well-lit areas, Mirra said.

“What you’re not allowed to lock to is private property,” Mirra said.

Some of the common spots where people leave bikes where they don’t belong include railings up to doors, fences around gardens and fences around sidewalk planters.

If you park your bike there don’t expect it to be there when you get back.

Philadelphia Police spokeswoman Officer Jillian Russell said that police don’t ticket improperly parked bikes, but private citizens, in cases where the bikes are left attached to their property, have the right to remove the bikes.

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