My first time was outside my college when I was 16. I remember it well. Everyone remembers their first time. She was beautiful. The most gorgeous mountain bike you have ever seen. Sure it was just a £200 bike from JJB Sports but I was young and I was in love. I looked around at the exact spot where I had left it but it was nowhere to be seen.
I’m sure a lot of people can recall their first time. Now we all know how to lock our bikes but maybe some times in takes more than that. Maybe it takes a little bit of thinking outside the box. A little bit of “blue sky thinking” if you will.
The first way to achieve this enlightened state of mind is to step into the shoes of a criminal. In my criminal heyday I stole a packet of cigarettes and maybe a few sweets from the local shop. The packet of cigarettes was a long time ago and the sweets was last Sunday. I’m kidding, they were both a long time ago. So, I’m not exactly what you may call a criminal mastermind. Yet, despite not been a criminal mastermind this is where I come across my first obstacle to unconventional prevention ideas.
If I was a thief and I liked stealing things what I would not steal is beat up old bikes. Yet, both my bikes that have been stolen were not worth more than £50 second hand. This puts a major dampener on my first unconventional idea: making your bike look ugly.
So if making your bike look undesirable isn’t a guaranteed solution what is?
My second idea is removing parts of your bike when you leave it locked. For example taking off the front wheel and locking it in a separate location? Then Mr Thief comes along, sees a bike with a missing front wheel and thinks: “unless I’m the king of wheelies there’s no way I’m stealing that”.
I don’t think this is such a bad idea. Though of course it is a pain having to find a location to leave my bike and then another location to leave my wheel and then having to rejoin the two. Even with a quick release it still takes time.
Another idea which may work well is to personalise the bike. When research was done into which wallets were returned and which were not they came to an interesting conclusion. Putting a picture of a baby in your wallet greatly improved your chances of being reunited. Perhaps this could also work with bikes. Perhaps I should print a picture of a baby and put it on my bike. I would certainly get some funny looks. Though a funny idea, I would presume a bike that had been heavily personalised would not be as sellable. So maybe you should litter it with stickers? The obvious downside to this is I don’t particularly want to make my bike look silly.
However, this is good, were definitely getting somewhere with our unconventional thinking. Let’s take it to the extreme level.
What if bikes were so cheap there was no point stealing one? What if everyone in the world was automatically given a bike for life as soon as they are born? What if we banned selling of second hand bikes? What if all bikes were fitted with GPS tracking? What if your bike wouldn’t move without finger print identification?
Okay, let’s cut back on the extreme thinking a little. For a start whilst the price of bikes may continue to fall, the most desirable bikes will no doubt remain expensive and thus there will still be a market for them. Banning second hand bike sales would be unworkable and wasteful and GPS tracking would no doubt be expensive. A bike for life could potentially work and would be very interesting.
Throwing these ideas around is a good thought exercise but one day I’m hopeful our bike theft problems may eventually solve themselves. If the number of cyclists continues to increase then maybe one day a bike will become such a commodity that we don’t even think about it. It would be like someone trying to steal your vacuum cleaner.
For now I’ll continue locking my bike with two different locks, in well lit areas, near to other bikes but I just might add a few personal touches.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.