Did you know that the #1 crime in Davis is bike theft?
“Big deal,” many people may say. “It’s just a bike and can be replaced.” Imagine walking out of your house and discovering that your car is gone. You need it to get to work. You depend on your car to connect you to everything and everyone. Your car is rarely out of your sight for more than a few hours and you expect to find it where you left it. As you stare at an empty parking space, the reality of how bike theft affects others begins to sink in. You are angry and feel lost and violated.
For many bike riders, their bike is their only mode of transportation and way to connect to food, school and job, making it equal in value to a car or cell phone. Replacing a bike and all its accessories—lock, racks, fenders, baskets and lights—could cost a lot of money the owner doesn’t have. It takes a lot of time to replace a bike, and meanwhile the owner must walk or use other less convenient forms of transportation. An expense many people in our community cannot afford.
The Bike Campaign’s #1 goal is to increase the joy of bike riding. Bike theft does not bring joy. Ask the many apartment complex managers whose residents come to them shocked and dismayed at having their bike stolen from the premises. Both the resident and the managers feel badly but are powerless to change the situation. Myself, as the director of The Bike Campaign, and our “Ask a Local” volunteers hear about bike theft constantly and have met with thousands of new residents and visited a variety of properties where they live. We ask questions and discovered the top two reasons bikes get stolen.
(1) A secure bike rack
(2) This rack increases likelihood of theft
1) A secure bike rack is not available. A secure bike rack (image 1) is a rack that makes it possible to lock the frame of the bike to the rack itself. The rack is bolted to a cement pad and is in a location that is highly visible.
2) The bike is not correctly locked to the rack. Many people new to riding a bike do not know how to choose a secure lock and attach the bike to a rack properly to avoid theft. Cheap locks are easily cut, but often, a bike owner is in a hurry and doesn’t use the lock or locks the tire to the rack (image 2), making it easy for a thief to release the wheel and steal the bike.
Most of the bike racks at schools in Davis are pre-1960’s, when bike theft was not the #1 crime in Davis. In fact, I don’t recall ever using a lock when going to school in the 60’s-70’s. Unless you have a very long cable lock—which are easy to cut—outdated racks make it impossible to lock the bike’s frame to the rack. These racks are often in remote locations, beyond the visual range of people coming/going from school entrances. These racks are often on the side of the school where there are no windows and are directly accessible to paths leading away from the school, where thieves can make an easy escape.
When an outdated rack, or no rack, is provided for bicycle riders, bikes are left vulnerable to theft. As more teens and millennials choose to not get driver’s licenses, it benefits everyone to replace old racks with secure ones, especially at multiple unit residences and workplaces. And while we’re at it, let’s provide highly visible information (graphics) attached to these racks about; what a secure lock looks like, how to attach the lock/bike to the bike rack, and remind riders to not leave bikes outside overnight.