The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Locked and Loaded

Bikes. Who doesn't love them? They look good, they feel nice, and they smell fantastic. In fact, bikes are so delightfully fragrant that people sometimes even take them without asking. This is called "stealing." Nobody likes having their bike stolen. When someone steals your bike it means you have to put a missing bike post on Craigslist, Tweet about it, and send lots of emails containing frowny-face emoticons. Boo:(

There's no sure way to keep your bike from getting stolen, but there are things you can do to make it less likely, and when I'm forced to be away from my bike I use an old messenger trick called "locking." This involves finding a stationary object and fastening your bike to it using a keyed device of some kind. Until now this was secret knowledge possessed only by hardcore urban cyclists from the streetz, but I'm going to tell you how to do it and ruin the whole locking scene for everybody:

1) Find a stationary object that's not made out of ice, velvet, or Jell-O. Metal's good. If you're not sure something is metal, put your tongue on it. Also, don't lock your bike to trees, they can't be trusted.

2) Look out for filmmaker Casey Neistat. If you so much as touch his bike while locking yours, he'll get one of his starry-eyed NYU film school intern groupies to cut your bike in two with a Sawzall, then he'll make a movie about it for his unwatchable HBO series.

3) Take your keyed locking device and make it go around both the bike and the non-Jell-O object, carefully avoiding anything belonging to Casey Neistat. Once you've finished, flag down a suspicious-looking person, show them the bike, and ask, "Excuse me, does that look secure to you? I don't want my bike getting stolen, it cost me $2,500." If he replies, "Sure it does, I'll even watch it for you," you're in good shape. Also, leave him with a copy of your key in case he needs to move the bike for you. (For example, Casey Neistat might want the pole to himself. He has a special bike parking placard thanks to his work for the DOT on the "Don't Be A Jerk" campaign.)

4) Go away from the bike and do the thing you have to do. If it's still there when you get back, ride it to the next place you need to go, making sure to remove the locking device first. (Attempting to ride a locked bike is the second-most common form of locking-related injury.) If the bike is still there but part of it is missing, establish which part is missing and whether or not the bicycle is still rideable. Do not attempt to ride if it is missing a vital component. (Attempting to ride a bicycle after a thief has removed the saddle but left the seatpost is the first-most common form of locking-related injury.) If someone steals your cockpit, you are an idiot. If the entire bike is gone, take the bus, buy some Rollerblades, or steal Casey Neistat's bike. Then, when you get home, write a Craigslist post like this:

Mercier Kilo TT Stolen - $1000 (Williamsburg)

My Mercier Kilo TT bike was stolen today from in front of that place that sells $35 beer cocktails. Very recognizable--it's completely stock with a "One Less Car" sticker on the bar that goes across the top. Can't think of any more details, it's not like these things come in sizes or anything. It was my baby! $1,000 reward if found, I know that's three times more than the bike cost but its sentimental value makes it irreplaceable.

Then, if you're lucky, someone will find it and the police will make you steal it back:

“How do we know it’s their bike?” a police spokesman asked later. “We can’t give people back stuff just because they say it’s theirs. We need some sort of proof of purchase and a serial number.”

It seems to me that in the case of a stolen cargo bike it's pretty easy to verify a claim of ownership by means of a simple "sniff test," since all cargo bike riders have a strong odor of smugness wafting off of them. Instead, though, the police took the passive-aggressive approach:

“He told her, ‘I’m going say to you that the lock doesn’t look like it would be that difficult to cut,’ ” said John, who rushed to a hardware store, bought a bolt cutter and used it to liberate his stolen two-wheeler, one of an estimated 100,000 cycles that are stolen each year in the city.

I hope our emergency services also start using this method, since it should make for some entertaining scenarios. "'I'm going to say to you that that fire doesn't look like it would be that difficult to extinguish with a garden hose,' said the fireman who arrived at the scene." "'I'm going to say to you that that bone doesn't look like it would be too difficult to set yourself,' inferred the EMT to the cyclist lying under a minivan." (Actually, given the state of health care in this country, this is pretty much how it works already if you don't have insurance.) "'I can't have my assistant cut that lock for you because it's not inconveniencing me directly, but I can't tell you not to see if Hal Ruzal is available,' explained Casey Neistat." And so forth.

Anyway, speaking of locks, lately I've been "testing" a lock from Knog:

By "testing" I of course mean I've been putting it around my bicycle and seeing if it's still there when I return. Thus far, it has been:

I wouldn't ordinarily be commuting on a bike like this, but that happened to be the bike closest to hand at the moment. It also used to be my Ironic Orange Julius commuting bike, but then I "promoted" it to my ironic singlespeed cyclocross racing bike when the Scattante came around:

I have configured this bike in a number of ways and I think I may have finally settled on the optimum setup, though I now regret having gotten rid of the chainguard and may fit one for even less "street cred." Incidentally, those packages are indeed as precarious as they look, but I was caught without my "smugness flotilla" and had to make do with what fasteners were available:

It's the unexpected loads that are always the messiest.

Another thing that's messy is the streets of New York, especially when it comes to cars parking in bike lanes. Even though the city is growing preternaturally quiet as the holidays approach, there are just as many cars blocking the bike lanes as usual. In fact, the relative quiet only serves to emphasize the problem:

I go through phases when it comes to bike lane squatters. For months I'll be outraged, and then I'll suddenly decide to approach the whole thing with zenlike calm and smile at them as I ride around them, and then I'll find it really annoying again. Lately, I've been in an annoyed phase once again:

What's most annoying about it is that there's really very little you can do, since double-parking is a deeply-ingrained way of life here that predates most of the bike lanes. However, I think I've finally come up with a solution, and that's harnessing the awesome power of Homeland Security:

You may decry the fact that we're now supposed to be a nation of suspicious tattletales, but why not use it to our advantage? I mean, how do I know the Escalade in my path isn't full of nerve gas or deadly explosives? Who's to say that minivan isn't part of an insidious plot of some kind? Really, sitting around idling in a bike lane is pretty suspicious when you think about it, so maybe if we all "say something" then the government can start clearing them in the interest of national security. Then again, it's probably a bad idea, since instead of removing the cars they'll just remove all the bike lanes, like when CBS News said that terrorist cyclists might try to use the bike lane to blow up the Israeli Consulate.

Of course, if it's not cars in the bike lane it's pedestrians, and this very morning a man stepped in front of me into the bike lane while jockeying his cellphone. I saw him in plenty of time and gave him a wide berth, yet as I passed he exclaimed, "Hey, you almost clipped me!" Perhaps he'll pen an angry comment on an article about bike lanes, even though I had his safety in mind while he was preoccupied, and even though I was going very slowly--though not as slowly as this guy:

Must be one of those folding bike trials riders.

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