Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dear Bike Thief,

First things first.

Stolen bikes November 2010 from kate ryan on Vimeo.

I know, I live in the city. Crime is part of the landscape. A stolen bike doesn't compare to a violent crime. I'm in a position to replace the object that was stolen. I get that. I get all that. But that's not the point. Let me help you understand.

For you, maybe a bike is a toy. Maybe it's a paycheck; you steal it and turn it into some quick cash. Maybe you figure it's no big deal. Maybe you figure it won't be missed, because it's just something that a person takes out for a spin in good weather.

Well, Mr. or Ms. Thief. You are wrong. My bikes were not toys (even though the Dahon you stole is just as cute as a bug and super fun to ride). My bikes were/are my transportation, my means to a free cardiovascular workout, and my secret weapon in the war on gridlock. Most recently, I found my bikes to be a terrific addition to my WTOP 'go-kit'...the gear I grab in a hurry to get to breaking news.

My bikes were also important because I chose them carefully, and bought them with my--yeah, I know it's cliche--hard-earned money. I work at a job I love. But I work hard, and I appreciate the things I have. I take good care of them. That's why I kept them in a secured garage out of the weather. That's why I locked them. That's why I took the seat off one of them --so someone like you wouldn't want to steal it.

Although they are just things and can be replaced, I am grateful that I have opportunities to own such nice things. I don't take them for granted. And I am one of those geezers who just so happens to think it is plain wrong, and downright mean, to steal someone else's stuff. Whether it's a sandwich out of the company fridge or a fabulous bike like the ones I've owned. So it does, in fact grind my gears when someone comes along and steals one, then tries to trash the other.

I sat down today and took a good hard look at the bike you didn't steal. The Gazelle Medeo you tried to butcher. On one hand I wanted to cry, on the other---well, let's just say I had some unkind thoughts about you. See, this one is personal. I got that bike during a very special trip to a very special city. I bought it from a man who owned his own shop. Who was justifiably proud of the business he built from the ground up. It cost me, but I thoroughly enjoyed putting my money in his hands. It was a good business deal with a good business man. And every time I look at and ride that bike, I remember that wonderful trip and the people I met along the way.

And that bike has given me such pleasure. Many of us zip through DC in a hurry to get to work, appointments, dates, events. We sweat the traffic, the parking, the time devoted to travel. But a bike makes it a whole different experience. As I ride through the city that has provided me with a livelihood, I enjoy or endure the weather (depending on the conditions) I have a closer connection to people on the street, and I see the beauty of a city that miraculously, has managed to maintain a human scale and a closeness with nature that refreshes me as I travel its broad avenues and neighborhood streets.

So, I'm ticked off. I'm angry. You stole stuff that didn't belong to you and you broke what you couldn't take. Like anyone who's had a piece of property stolen or damaged, it's not just the object you stole, but the things connected to it that you damaged. And that stinks. And that's the point.


  1. You need to do a story about how zoning codes, building developers and managers as well as tenants don't take the provision of long term bicycle parking for employees seriously enough.

    Indoor parking in a parking garage that is minimally protected is a disservice.

    - Toronto manual on bicycle parking

    The toronto bike plan has one of the better sections on parking, which distinguishes between the needs of short term and long term parkers.

    The group I work with, BicyclePASS LLC, is working to develop and market more robust parking solutions to commercial properties (office and retail) and multiunit residential buildings.

  2. Sorry to hear it. Bike parking is a problem that would be easy to solve if it was taken seriously and if either users were consulted or, better yet, design standards were updated and followed.

    Apartments near where I live in Alexandria have bicycles attached to every nearby street sign. Most stores that I visit to have zero (Shoppers), substandard (CVS), incorrectly installed (Trader Joes), or badly placed (MOMs) parking. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit to be had in this area. I hope you get an insurance settlement and that your parking facility gets an upgrade.