Bike theft seems like one of those quality-of-life crimes (like graffiti and coercive squeegee-monkeys) that's begging for some kind of creative enforcement strategy.
- If there's an open-air bike market at 7th and Market, it seems like you could use some of the same strategies that have been used to shut down open-air drug markets.
- Police in the greater Vancouver area have had a lot of success with bait cars, but I'm not aware of bait bikes being used more than experimentally (cf. tocatchabiketheif.com)
- If one could devise a concentrated enforcement strategy, one might not need to "take six guys off a murder" for very long. Basically the idea would be to tip a high-crime-low-probability-of-punishment equilibrium and into a low-crime-high-probability-of-punishment equilibrium that should presumably remain equally stable. One approach would be to target a geographic area and communicate (and follow through on) a threat to throw the book at anyone caught stealing a bike.
(pretty much all of these are stolen from the book When Brute Force Fails).
I've done some work with a local (university) police force that used bait bikes. They'd attach a GPS device, secure it with a poor lock, and wait a couple of days. I went with them once to track down where the stolen bike was parked. Every once in a while they'd land on a ring selling all kinds of stuff on Ebay, but that was less common.
Part of their trouble was, being an underfunded public agency, their bike wasn't of the expensive sort, so I got the impression they were seeing diminishing returns over time as the bike became less desirable. They did this with laptops too, although their "bait" laptop no longer worked, and was really old. I could never get anyone to steal it.
I don't know what happened when the case(s) were turned over to the D.A.
When I was in Japan, the bikes-stealing dynamic was a bit different: the most common place to find your bike was at the nearest train station. The typical thief seemed to be running late for the train, and would borrow whatever was available.
> When I was in Japan, the bikes-stealing dynamic was a bit different: the most common place to find your bike was at the nearest train station. The typical thief seemed to be running late for the train, and would borrow whatever was available.
I feel terrible for finding this side-splittingly hilarious.
I'm not so sure. A friend once had a laptop stolen with the Prey anti-theft software  installed, which transmits the location, a screencap and a webcam photo of whoever is using your laptop once every ten minutes. He still couldn't get the police interested.
You can also directly attack the economics of bike resale. Make an inexpensive bike with a combined drive shaft, shifting mechanism, and lock mechanism internal to the frame. Put it together in such a way that it's quite possible to disable the lock, but impossible to do that without rendering the bicycle inoperable.
Then, instead of selling these bikes, one leases them. It would be impossible to sell such a bike without the buyer knowing it was stolen. (It may also be impossible to manufacture such a bike in the first place, but I'm not sure one could know without trying.)
Puma (the shoe people) sold a bike for several years with a lock comprising part of the frame. If the lock were cut, it would make the bike frame unstable, theoretically discouraging theft. I don't know if it was successful in any objective way, but it was an interesting idea: http://www.bikeoff.org/design_resource/DR_bikes_examples_pum...
Making the bike frame unstable isn't strong enough. People still ride unstable bikes. A fabrication method that involves squeezing spring loaded parts into a tube could serve to make the bike inoperable when dismantled, even to the point of immobilizing the rear wheel.
I heard about thieves vandalizing apartments where there is nothing precious to steal, so you might just get your bike destroyed in anger. On the other hand, they may as well just take a less secured bike. That would really need to be tested in practice.
With bikes, at the moment, it seems to be a significant problem: there are a ton of bikes in Copenhagen that end up stuck somewhere because the owner lost the key or forgot the combination. Sometimes the owners get a bolt cutter and cut the lock off; other times the police eventually show up to an area that's getting full of abandoned bikes, cut all the locks (after tagging them for a few weeks, which basically declares open season for anyone else too), and haul out a whole set of bikes. I'm not sure the economics work out for it to be worth doing the equivalent of going back to a car dealer for a new set of keys, when just buying another used bike costs $150-300. A car's worth doing it for because it's expensive, so even a dealer charging you $200 is worth it. But with bikes, even with the current economics many people don't bother: figuring out how to cut a U-Lock is more hassle than buying another cheap bike, and not much cheaper.
I heard a story, but I have no idea whether it's true: bike shop in San Francisco leaves very shiny, high end bike outside. Thief hops on bike, heads down hill to make a quick getaway. Thief soon discovers that the bicycle's brake cables are not connected. CRASH.
This is the only case I could find on wikipedia. Placing a bicycle outside with no brakes hooked up is a far cry from rigging a spring loaded shotgun to the door of an unoccupied building.
It isn't even unheard of for people to legitimately (well, not legally I think...) ride bicycles without brakes, so where would you draw the line? If the police used a Ford Pinto as a bate car, could they be similarly at fault?
Obviously the only way to know for sure is for it to happen, but my money is on there being no way in hell there would be a conviction.
A concealed spring-loaded shotgun hidden behind a door is, without any doubt whatsoever, intended to maim an unsuspecting person. A bicycle placed outside without breaks though? There are far too many plausible less than evil explanations for that to say with any certainty that a jury would side with the plaintiff. (Unless the shop did something particularly stupid like admit they put it there in that condition with intent to harm...)
Now, could the guy still sue? Yeah, of course. He could also sue if a perfectly normal bike that he stole gave him blisters. That would be pretty dumb, and he wouldn't win, but he could still do it. The only thing that really matters at the end of the day is "can you get away with it".
If there are better cases than the shotgun out there (and I imagine there should be if it is really so easy to sue for things like that), then I will of course re-evaluate my position.
This is a very middle-class idea, if you don't mind me saying. Most of the bikes we had growing up were cobbled together from bits of other old bikes, and the method of stopping was to use the arch of your foot in the space at the back where the brakes should be.
It wore out one shoe faster then the other, but you could do cool skids.
Having had two regular bicycles stolen over ten years in Tokyo, I would disagree that the problem is non-existent in Japan, though street crime is indeed relatively rare. Bicycles are commonly used by the majority of people. Authorities need staff dedicated to keeping streets near stations from getting clogged up with secured bikes. An unsecured bicycle near a station might be used as a free ride home by a drunken salaryman, but rarely stolen as a cash generator I guess.
No social safety net really exists in Japan. Yet in general, Japanese would not even consider crime when in financial dire straits. I don't believe this has as much to do with enforcement as acute social awareness.
Much of the fabric of American society has dissolved. This is a kind of social capital which is very powerful and hard to quantify. (It's also threatening to certain governments for precisely this reason.)
Having had two regular bicycles stolen over ten years in Tokyo, I would disagree that the problem is non-existent in Japan
Two bicycles over ten years compared to how many you would get stolen in the US is "nothing".
That's the problem when comparing crime rates in the US and Japan, people in Japan still feel like there's tons of crime. I suggest you spend a couple of years living in a large US city. I hear San Francisco is very nice.
I don't think being in financial dire straits is usually a reason for people to turn to crime anywhere in the world. Usually the "conversion" to criminal activities happens before they reach financial issues. The whole link between unemployment <-> crime does not make sense in most cases. There are many ways to survive before resorting to crime.
I disagree. I spend much of my time working in Japan, and notice that people rarely ever lock their bikes, and am told by the locals that bicycle theft (and theft, in general) is rare. I have personally witnessed, in fact, a colleague leave a laptop on a bench in a busy district of Tokyo and when he realized it _an hour later_ he returned to find the laptop there, untouched.
There's a lot of cultural difference to factor into the analysis. I think the article holds true for the U.S., and especially the Bay Area. I've had my own bicycle stolen there (despite a hefty U-lock).
Also, the Japanese police can hold you for 23 days without trial or formal accusation, if they suspect you stole a bicycle.
If you are charged, you can choose a no-jury trial, or a jury trial with no right to appeal; and Japan has an extremely high conviction rate (though few people are actually charged, the prosecutors are very selective).
If you see a laptop on a park bench, you either leave it or call the police. If you pick it (to check the browser for the owner's email address) and a policeman catches you with it (and they don't need a warrant or even good cause to search you), you can undergo a lot of hassle.
But you could make possession of stolen property (the bike) a major crime with prison and financial punishment and you weaken the demand side of things.
Then using RFID or similar technology, you could embed a RFID tag somewhere in the frame. Then allow someone to report a stolen bike with a police report, very similar to a stolen vehicle report and then using remote scanners you could scan for stolen bikes very easily. All it takes is fear of a stolen bike to scare away potential buyers.
But you could make possession of stolen property (the bike) a major crime with prison and financial punishment and you weaken the demand side of things.
In legal terms, you'd have a problem with proportionality—that is, the idea that the punishment needs to fit the crime. This is partially a problem with fairness and partially a problem with incentives: if you give someone the same punishment for, say, stealing a bike and for beating someone up, then if you want to steal someone's bike you might as well beat them up to steal the bike.
If you follow this logic, you eventually get to something like 18th C England, where a LOT of stuff was punishable by death, which led to large problems with murder: if you're going to be killed for stealing, you might as well kill someone, then steal, since you've just eliminated the witness.
Your example doesn't apply because death is the ceiling. It's impossible to kill someone twice, so ultimately it makes no difference to the criminal.
However, if the criminal gets 5 years for stealing a bike, and 10 years for beating someone up, the criminal might be swayed by 5 years vs 15 years.
I can see the situation where the criminal thinks "I'm already probably going to jail, might as well decrease my chances as much as possible" by beating someone up. I think most bike crimes occur when the owner isn't around though.
The US already proportionally has the most prisoners out of any country in the world, and I'm wary of any solution that includes making that problem worse. That kind of thing has giant socioeconomic costs and, looking at the crime rates, doesn't seem to work at making the country safer. I just don't think that finding yet another reason to put a whole bunch of people in prison (average cost per month between $2000 and $4000 at a quick google) over a bike worth $1000 is really going to make anything better in the long run.
I don't think you can measure the worth of a bicycle so simply. For many people, $1000 represents a very significant sum of money and their bicycle is their means of transportation. The theft of a bicycle can be a very life disrupting event.
Whether or not the decline in violent crime justifies the rise in imprisonment and the decline in prison standards, or whether there might be other ways to achieve the same declines are different questions. But the United States has become significantly safer over the last ten, twenty and fifty years.
Criminologists aren't anywhere close to a consensus on the causes of the crime rate reduction of the last few decades. Many theories have been offered, from decreased crack use, to fewer unwanted children resulting from legalized abortions, to your suggestion of harsher sentencing.
Yes, Harsher sentencing may have something to do with it, but it could just as well have increased our crime rate and been counteracted by one of the other factors.
There is no scientific consensus to support your claim.
The real answer to your first sentence is clearly "people need to commit less crime". I would suggest there's a lot of evidence showing that the threat of prison isn't deterring crime at least amongst some demographics. Do you really think greater risk of prison is going to stop bike theft by crackheads? Or homeless? Or the poor?
It's quite possible that fixing some of the social problems would be a way more powerful motivator to stop bike theft then increasing enforcement/punishment alone. Possibly way more cost effective too.
What I'm questioning is your proposed method of achieving that - putting more people in prison - is it likely to help?
Does anybody seriously think that the threat of prison is deterring people from committing drug-related crime? Do you suppose a typical homeless person considers risking being put in jail for stealing to eat to be a significantly worse option than sleeping hungry and cold under a freeway overpass?
Wikipedia has some quite alarming numbers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_St... - one in every 31 adults, one in every 11 African-Americans " behind bars, or being monitored (probation and parole)". Surely that's pretty clear evidence that the problems leading people into committing crimes are significantly more powerful than the deterrent of prison time?
No it's not unreasonable to want that, but it's probably a bit ridiculous to believe it will ever happen. And it's definitely ridiculous to believe we're going to get there by just locking more people up.
America has 5% of the world's population, but nearly 25% of the world's prisoners--do you really think we need to increase that. Over 3% of adults are under some kind of correctional supervision--where do we stop?
tl;dr: In the U.S. in only 20% of murder cases the perpetrator is found and convicted of murder, compared with (allegedly) 90% in Japan. At the same time, even if all non-violent offenders (that includes all drug offenses) were released from prisons in the U.S. tomorrow, the U.S. would still have double the incarceration rate of Western Europe.
Going from 7 times Europe's rate to double Europe's rate is still pretty significant.
On your second link, the first half is reasonable, but the second half utterly misses the point. The reason why the police wait in 'The Wire' and in real life is because they're gathering evidence. If they don't have enough evidence, the case won't stick. Similarly, they're trying to catch the kingpins. If you catch the front-line dudes you can fill your prisons with them, but there will always be more (in places where it's bad, like where the Wire is set).
It's weird that given the US already has such an immense problem with overincarceration that you think the solution is to lock people up over even more trivial issues. Where are those people going to be stored? Given the already clogged courts, aren't you going to have to abandon due process in order to get so many through?
There are stories all the time about prisons being run for profit. If the prison industry is profitable, perhaps it can be made profitable enough to pay for more courts as well. More prisons would of course be a net gain rather than a loss.
There is a solution. A totalitarian police state with no privacy and draconian punishments.
Increased incarceration and police powers reach an eventual point of diminishing returns.
Do you know what the likelihood of a 6 year old being abducted or killed by a stranger are? Do a google search and you'll probably be surprised by how uncommon it is. Fewer children are abducted in the classic "stranger danger" manner (unknown attacker as opposed to a friend or family member) than are struck by lightning each year.
If we can save 10 6 year olds per year, is it worth incarcerating 100 extra people, 1000, 10,000...1,000,000? At what point does the increased risk of snaring innocent people, and the financial cost outweigh the small gains in "safety"?
This is a surprising stance to encounter on HN. The article I linked to asserted that although crime in NYC has gone drastically down, incarceration rates have not gone up. I found that interesting, do you?
Elsewhere in this thread you suggest executing bike thieves as they commit theft, and although I'm not sure you were entirely serious, I'm afraid we're going to agree on much about this issue.
Can you make an RFID tag that you can embed in the bike such that it's easy to scan at a small distance, but also hard for the thieves to fry it or remove it? Because in order to be successful it would be to be standardized and if standardized the thieves would fry it if easy.
Goes down the seat tube and is a one-way insert only. Cannot be pulled back out, and is too large to push down and get out of the bottom bracket shell.
I actually have those installed in all my bikes.
Far simpler though: Every one of my bikes is littered with very small notes saying "If this bike was not brought into the shop by David Kitchen it is stolen, please call 07740949xxx".
Those notes are in the stem, under the bar tape, under the rim tape, in the bottom bracket shell, in the seat tube, in the seat post. Everywhere you can hide a small note whilst building the bike that will be found when servicing the bike.
I printed them on plastic using a Dymo machine, they weigh nothing... and if my bikes were stolen then one day they will arrive in a bike store for a service, and be returned to me.
http://Taggle.com.au (I'm an investor) has a small device that allows remote tracking of assets like bicycles for years without an external power supply. The tiny devices broadcast a low powered wide spectrum ping every 20 mins to 1 hour and very smart receivers triangulate to provide coordinates. The transmitters can also send data, generally a meter reading or if a secure element is broken.
Taggle Systems are focussing first on remote reading of water meters and other water utility use cases, but once networks are in place then tracking bikes will be doable.
Increasing severity of penalties doesn't generally work for cutting recidivism (and you'd have to steal a lot of bikes to make the caused harm proportionate to jail time for a person, even if you subscribe to the lizard brain "revenge" school of thought on punishment).
Agreed. Further, take the PD out of the equation. There needs to be a grassroots effort. Each new bike purchase should be in tied to register and be active in an online community to police the used bike market and put the swueeze on organized bike thieves.
We used to be able to register our bikes with the police department. They'd stamp a registration number onto the frame of the bike using lettered taps and a hammer. The only way to take off the registration is to either file it down or cover it over, in either case a clear indication the bike is stolen.
I got a bike stolen 3 times. Twice I got one back when the police found it (once the bike had upgrades too. Better front fork, better grips and 2nd rider peddels had been added)
Anyway, I'm sure someone will cite "budget cuts" but I certainly wish they still registered bikes. It seems like in a city like SF there are enough cyclists, revenues from registering the bikes could pay for a few bike police.
Yep. The only downside is that if a policeman is in a bad mood you may get stopped and checked to make sure you aren't a thief. Only heard of it happening to foreigners (not myself though) but it's a good idea to keep a card in your wallet or a photo of your registration (which is actually a really good idea for anyone traveling/living abroad: if you can keep them in a safe/encrypted place, carrying a photo of your passport, gaijin card, etc. is a pretty good idea in case you put on the wrong pants one day).
I'm in Tokyo and I got stopped twice by police officers wanting to check my bike, on a 3 month period (I do 2 rides of 30 mins a day). For basically no reason (other than being a foreigner in a country where the police is racist?)
Many places in Japan are basically bike theft free. I used to live in a town in Kansai where people just left the bikes in the train station for their commutes without any kind of locks, and just found them in the evening when they were back. I was completely amazed by this. In Tokyo they mostly used basic locks that came with the bike, not sure what's the situation now, a decade later.
Now, some "gaijin" saw a business opportunity there and basically this level of safety is over in most big cities. I think it's totally understandable that they target foreigners. Japan is one of the safest places in the world and they want it to remain that way.
If you are < 30 then it's not racism. It's profiling. The fact of the matter is that most young foreigners in Tokyo are complete hooligans. They're there because their families are on business or in the military. They freely roam one of the world's largest cities with almost no fear of the police. And, yes, they steal bikes with impunity, amongst other things.
Even if you do get stopped for genuine wrong-doing, the worst that happens is you get a talking to or a citation at the nearest kōban. Better yet, if you learn even the tiniest bit of Japanese that will generally set the policeman at ease.
I've been stopped numerous times as well. I am ethnically Japanese and speak Japanese as well. Usually this happens to me after the trains have stopped running and while I'm stopped at a light anyways.
This has stopped recently though... I am wearing a cycling kit, switched to a road bicycle, and riding in traffic. So likely I've dropped out casual thief profile.
In Tokyo they were really active in checking it too. Police going around and randomly stopping you to check your bike registration. I think I was checked three times in two years (maybe because I'm a foreigner).
They used to do this in D.C. , but the problem was engraving into your new bike will void the frame warranty. The police used to use this registration as a way to stop any bike messenger and check if your bike was registered. If it wasn't they impounded it and you had to pay a fine to get it back, usually $5.
The website looks like something out of the late 90's, and the form is a Word document, but it's nice that it exists. It evidently gets some use too, as they occasionally recover a stash of stolen bicycles and post pictures of the ones that weren't registered.
Bike registration would be a great service to outsource to bike shops. It generates foot traffic for the shop, costs almost nothing, and the local PDs can work with the bike shops in a fashion similar to how PDs work with pawn shops.
Provide a national registry, sell ads, viola! YC 2013, baby! (Okay, maybe not, but a useful public service niche.)
Various Police forces also do cycle marking for free, worth checking the website of your local force. This isn't UV ink but a unique number that is etched into the frame (they've different etches for different frame materials, I've had both steel and carbon fibre frames done).
It makes sense that large-scale operations are common in locations with a big bike scene. These will likely require a distribution network, so fighting bike theft might benefit from focusing on infiltrating those networks.
I had a friend who bought a bike lock that was insured against any thefts (whether they were quick with the insurance, I don't know). When he went to register it, he saw that there were two exceptions, one of which was the city in which he lived: Eugene Oregon, a town with tens of thousands of students. After asking around, he was told bike thieves there loaded entire bike racks onto trucks in a couple minutes, then removed each lock at their leisure in a storage facility.
I find it hard to imagine that they sold them off individually: it's too suspicious to have a few people selling hundreds of bikes. Likewise, delegating to underlings to sell the bikes also seems too risky, as several people now know about the enterprise. I suppose they sell wholesale to used bike shops in other towns who are in the know.
The solution in this case would seem to be turning criminals into witnesses, a la drug enforcement. Enforcement on an individual-basis wouldn't work: mere possession of a single stolen bicycle is unlikely to prove criminality. I doubt penalizing individuals for owning a bike (as with counterfeit money) would work either: if I go to a used bike shop to buy a bike, they're not going to give me the "stolen discount" - the shop is going to mark it up to the same price as legitimate used bikes.
i've been looking into the thief... his usual m.o. is to take them down to eugene. he also picks up different ones while he's down there, and sells them here in portland and seattle. i think his theft ring has a couple of other people involved, but i haven't been able to confirm it. i am hoping to do a follow-up video about this.
There is a bike seller in Manhattan who uses an interesting system in reselling his (more than likely) stolen bikes.
Once a buyer contacts him via craigslist, he finds out the persons general vicinity, brings the bike to the area and locks it up with a combo lock based chain. He will give you the address of the bike, and if you like it, can make the purchase online and you receive the combination. If you don't want it, he can pick it up who knows when - or leave it for someone else to check out. If the bike gets stolen, he hasn't lost anything on his bottom line and at no point is he in physical communication with the actual purchaser.
I'd say a more enterprising bike thief could really take advantage of this guy. Multiple email addresses to contact seller, regularly arrange viewings of these bikes and just steal them, probably using the same sort of equipment the seller uses to 'acquire' the bike originally!
This same concept was debated within the realm of drug trade - which obviously is at a different risk level. With special compartment style locks on a chain, the same concept is possible - without a dealer having to ever interact directly with the buyer. Same concept can also exist for hiding information (whistle blowers hiding a SD card with data, a key, who knows what).
I don't know about SF, but it is not uncommon to see just a bike chain hanging on a post - it just fits in to the environment and no one will notice someone just walking up and taking their chain with the right combination.
I've been reading a lot of books on the subject lately and I think that's exactly how a lot street-level dealers (the lowest ranked members of the empire) are operating. The dealer would hide their product somewhere close by, for example in an empty soda can in a garbage bin or in a crack in the pavement. Once a client has made a purchase the dealer would tell the client where his stuff is hidden and the client can then go and take it.
If a dealer was busted he would never have any product on him, and the risk is relatively low if you consider that these people usually deal in units worth probably less than 20$ each. So if a package gets stolen or lost it's no big deal really.
Presumably people will want to buy drugs from a dealer more than once so it wouldn't be worth ruining the relationship. Also dealers are usually connected to some sort of crime network so it's probably a risky proposition to simply steal from them outright.
While in this case perhaps it wouldn't be to 'check it out' but certainly post purchase or whatever requirements needed to exist prior to getting the combination. It is subtle enough to blend in to an urban landscape where abandoned(?) locks on chains aren't all that out of the norm.
boston has a zipcar bike system [better than zipcar because the bikes can be returned at any designated drop off/pickup location] called "hubway" but it is heavily subsidized [maybe entirely, im not sure]
I think a useful tactic to curb loss of expensive bikes would be to legally target the people who buy them, these are the people that cause the market to exist and perpetuate the situation. My guess is that most of these people are not crooks, i.e. they are just young people who want to but can't afford a nice bike and they know exactly what they are buying. I don't understand anything about bikes so can't give an example there, but if a person would approach me to sell, say, a 2010 Prius for $5K, I just know that is a stolen car. If knowingly buying a stolen car carries even a small legal charge, most people wouldn't do it.
Tangentially, and pardon my ignorance, I'm not a biker: I can't understand people who shell out thousands of dollars for a bike, are these so much better than a $500 one?
Tangentially, and pardon my ignorance, I'm not a biker: I can't understand people who shell out thousands of dollars for a bike, are these so much better than a $500 one?
As many other answers say, yes, there is a difference.
Here are some details (for 'racing' road bikes, which I know best):
For around $400, if you buy well online you can get something with an aluminium frame, carbon fibre fork and moderately decent components (eg ). It'll probably weigh a bit under 30 pounds (13 kg).
For around $700 you'll get a bike with similar specs from a major manufacturer and you can get it from a bike shop, where they will assemble it for you, make sure you get the right size etc. See 
For around $1000 you can get a carbon fibre frame on your bike (online, with terrible components) or bikes from major manufactures where the components start getting better (eg Shimano Sora 9 speed). These bikes should be between 20 and 25 pounds. See 
At $1500 you get bikes from major manufactures that are suitable for racing (ie, Shimano 105 10 speed, eg ), or can get pretty good carbon fiber bikes online. You also start getting decent bikes from high end manufactures (Bianchi, Pinarello, BMC). Most of these bikes will weigh a bit more than 20 pounds (9 kg), but if you choose carefully you might get under that.
Over $2000 you get carbon frames and Shimano's second to top component set, better wheels, and began getting under 20 pounds more often. High end only manufactures (Cervello, Ridley etc) are making their base level bikes.
Around $5000 you start getting electronic shifting, or better aero frames, deep rims on your wheels. You can start considering custom made frames. Your bike should weigh well under 20 pounds, and you can probably get down to the UCI limit of 6kg.
At $10,000 you are getting bike similar to what they ride in the Tour de France. You can get a power meter built into your crankset or wheels. The carbon frameset has been wind tunnel tested and is engineered so carefully that some parts of your frame only have a single layer of carbon, yet you still can't flex the frame at the bottom bracket. You probably have to add things like the power meter as ballast to make sure you are over the UCU weight limit. You can consider custom titanium or trying to buy onto the speedvagen waiting list.
Or, if you're me, you're often carrying 20 pounds of stuff in a backpack on your back anyway, which probably obviates the 5 pound difference in bike weight. I'm riding a Big Buzz: http://www.rei.com/product/775488/novara-big-buzz-bike , which is apparently "sold out" right now, and it seems to work tolerable well. I've ridden friends' expensive bikes, and most of them don't seem to be worth it unless you're racing or riding a LOT of miles.
Which is why criminals do not charge half of its used value -- they charge 100% of the used value just like everyone else.
You cannot tell a stolen bike on craigslist apart from a non-stolen bike based on the price alone.
The problem of stolen cars is addressed through licensing and registration. Not to mention, bicycles do not have a reliable and standardized VIN system like cars do. The fact is, the hassle of creating and enforcing such a system probably outweighs the positive aspects of preventing bike crime.
I lived in a town that required all bikes to be registered and licensed, and all sales of bikes to go through the local government. It was such a big pain that I would rather just live with the higher risk of theft and the lack of enforcement.
The LAPD was ticketing riders on large group rides a while back for not having their bikes registered. It was a misapplication of the law, since the law was supposed to protect cyclists from theft, not get them ticketed if they didn't have their stamp. The idea was that the bike shop registered your bike when you purchased it.
The cyclists stormed city hall and complained loudly, and the police were forced to stop doing this.
Not sure if it applies to all of Japan or just the city where I lived, but there was a requirement to license and register your bike with the local police department. Despite that my bike still got stolen from my apartment building, and from what I heard from others bike theft was not uncommon.
>Tangentially, and pardon my ignorance, I'm not a biker: I can't
>understand people who shell out thousands of dollars for a bike,
>are these so much better than a $500 one?
They are better. They aren't 5x better (as if this was even quantifiable)... but if you are passionate about biking and you spend a lot of time on your bike, it can seem worth it.
I spend much more time on my bike than in my car... and I appreciate the improved ride of associated with an extra $1000 on a bike more than I'd appreciate the improvements from spending an extra $5000 on a car. So, it certainly seems reasonable to me.
Knowingly purchasing stolen goods is already illegal in most places. The key is the "knowingly" part.
You would have to have a ubiquitous BikeID system in a central registry of stolen bikes. It would have to be incredibly easy to check the status of a BikeID (web/email/phone/sms). It would have to have incredible traction.
At that point if someone bought a bike which was tagged in the system as stolen, and didn't check/report it within 48 hours, they could be considered complicit in the theft.
We're getting pretty close to this with cars. I'm pretty libertarian in my ideology, but at some point the barrier is so low to running a CarFax-esque check that even I wouldn't mind penalizing buyers who don't do due diligence. It is, of course, easier to justify with higher ticket items than with bikes or phones...
Actually, purchasing stolen goods is illegal in most places, full stop. The reason is that it's practically impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what somebody did or didn't know, and when.
The BikeID idea is about as old as bike theft, but it's pretty difficult to enforce. If you care enough about not buying a stolen bike, the solution is simple: Ask for the original invoice. If not, you're not going to bother looking up the bike.
You could sweep parking areas, but you'd only return the bikes to their owners, at considerable cost to operate - and buying a stolen bike is still free of risk of punishment.
> Actually, purchasing stolen goods is illegal in most places, full stop.
In my state, the statute says "such person knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe the same to have been feloniously stolen or taken".
I doubt any state makes receiving stolen goods in complete ignorance a crime. However, the stolen goods are generally recoverable by the original owner, whether or not the person receiving them purchased them in good faith.
And the "reasonable" is in regard to the legal reasonable person, not to the individual in question, so "I just thought it sounded like a really good deal" isn't really a defence (that's how we spell it here) unless you had equally reasonable grounds to believe that the deal was square. If there's one really cheap bike at what appears to be a yard sale, you're probably okay, but if there are ten of them, well, you're legally expected to be at least a little suspicious.
> "The prices for stolen bikes go down and so does stealing them."
If the buyer did not know the bike was stolen, this will only punish the buyer and have no effect on the price of bicycles, since one cannot distinguish between a stolen vs. non-stolen bike (short of, say, suspiciously low prices, which has been called out elsewhere in this thread as a non-issue).
As usual, it's probably more complicated than that…
I wonder how much the "market price" for 2nd hand bikes is driven by the large(?) volume of stolen bikes in the market? Are legitimate bike sellers being forced into selling at lower-then-desired price points by a glut of stolen bikes being offered for 15 or 20% below "current prices", perhaps over time settling on unrealistically low market expectations? I wonder how big a percentage of the total demand for 2nd hand bikes is being met by the supply of stolen bikes? And what the effect of removing the stolen portion of the supply would be on the market price?
It's possible that if you raised barriers against selling stolen bikes, the prices of legitimate 2nd hand bike would rise, creating a "gap" where the time and money customizing/disguising stolen bikes became worthwhile.
In general, about weight, I agree. One exception is rotating mass (i.e., wheels). A light, well-built wheel handles a lot better than a heavy one. No amount of personal weight loss is going to make up for that.
Beyond mass, the behavior of shifters and brakes on nice bikes is much, much crisper and more predictable than on cheaper models. They also have better capacity for tuning (e.g., to eliminate chain rub, or accommodate a high-range sprocket set), and are more likely to stay in proper adjustment for longer. This makes riding a lot more fun -- the machine is very responsive to your wishes, and you forget it's there.
You probably are aware of this, but I felt a need to mention some of the advantages of a nice bike.
You're right about the difference that lowering your body mass makes. It's the easiest way to drop the weight that you have to pedal around. I have a cyclist friend who loves to claim "I just took a $1000 shit," the joke being that that's how much it would cost him to get a $poop_mass lighter bicycle.
However, this doesn't apply to racers. If it's going to speed someone up by 2%, and he's got the money, and he wants that last tiny advantage, he may just drop the cash on a $1500 wheel set.
Heck, if it's going to speed him up enough to make a 50m difference over a 200km road race, it's worth the price to an actual racer. (And there will probably considerable time spent tweaking even the best of things to perfection before each race.) But they are so very, very few in number, even if it's sometimes hard to tell when you pass that one local cafe that is populated exclusively by spandex-wearing, logo-encrusted latte drinkers who gather to talk about their bikes.
> Tangentially, and pardon my ignorance, I'm not a biker: I can't understand people who shell out thousands of dollars for a bike, are these so much better than a $500 one?
Think about one thing you're passionate about. There's going to be products that are good enough for the casual, every-day user and there's going to be premium goods, even if there's a decreasing price/performance ratio. Since we're on HN, I feel safe talking about computers.
Compare the $1000 3.9GHz i7 from Intel and the $500 3.8GHz version. Do some people need the minor performance increase enough to pay for it? Sure. Enough to create a market? Nope. It's people wanting to buy things just to show they can pay for it.
Well, given the amount I will use that computer over the 2 years I have it and the disruption to flow that processing pauses cause, a ~10% increase in performance might be worth the premium. I imagine there's similar logic for bikes. But you're right, sometimes people just want to show off.
That's assuming that they are selling the bikes at a far lower price than the market rate. Wise crooks probably know to offer a realistic price.
The prices for second hand bicycles are all over the place anyway. There's a significant number of people who will buy a reasonably expensive bike and keep it in the shed for years and then by the time they decide to get rid of it they have no idea what it's worth so will just sell it for below it's value.
> Tangentially, and pardon my ignorance, I'm not a biker: I can't understand people who shell out thousands of dollars for a bike, are these so much better than a $500 one?
Yes, they're considerably better - the price is directly reflected on aspects such as durability and weight of the components (frame, gearing, wheels, etc). Keep in mind, though, that buying the most expensive bike around just to commute 10-20 miles to work won't be a good investment - you should go for a good quality one when you're serious about long distance training or hard core mountain biking, for instance (usually after you're already practicing whichever style you prefer - a lot of people invest in an expensive bike upfront and never really use it to its full capacity).
(or assemble your own. It's fun, specially for hackers/geeks!)
> I can't understand people who shell out thousands of dollars for a bike, are these so much better than a $500 one?
Sure, if you want a MTB for blazing offroad trails or a road bike for touring. For your regular 20 minute commute, a sub-$1000 city bike is pretty much the sweet spot (depending on your available disposable income of course).
The problem is many bikes are legitimately sold for well below MSRP. When a bicycle manufacturer sponsors a college team, they typically sell just-released models to team members for less than wholesale. The members will sell the bike the following year (when the frame is still considered a current model year) for the same as they paid and buy another new one.
I would argue it's often more about falling into the same trap as 'audiophiles' as it is about direct benefits. Few people notice the added weight from drinking 2lb of water but people spend hundreds of dollars shaving 1/10th of that from their bike.
It does make a very considerable difference, if you're serious about your biking, though. Plus, more expensive bikes are not necessarily lighter - there are many variables involved on the price (wrist comfort, seating type, suspensions, frame stiffness/weight, numbers and quality of gears, etc) - many more than the usual 'audiophile' choosing range.
But yeah, a lot of people buy expensive rides for the looks and have no idea what do do with them...
In my experience, it stops making a difference once you have to carry a 20 lb kryptonite chain to lock it. I just spent all that money on a light bike, and now it's 20 pounds heavier. I hate bike thieves.
 that's assuming your vary light, climbing the whole trip, and have a terrible power output of 250w and uses 3lb which is a fair amount and even then 8.5 seconds after a 2km climb.
A more realistic 400w + 120lb rider +3% grade for 2000km then a negative 3% grade for 2000km and a weight diffidence of .3lb for 300$. End result after 4,000km is less than 5 minutes wow that's worth 300$.
 1 trip using human riders hardly qualify's as measurement. But even still measurement is next to meaningless you can detect cocaine on most people in an international airport that does not mean they have had anything but the most indirect contact with the stuff.
PS: Sure if your racing professionally then things change around, but that's a tiny portion of the bike community.
When you are out riding with your friends, you typically want to beat them to the top of climb. A 2km climb is fairly reasonable for that type of climb.
You are right - 200w is low - I just used the default values. If you look on Strava, most middle-of-the-pack people post power in the low 300watts.
1.5 kg is easily the difference between a < $1000 bike and a $2000 bike. Cycling (as a sport) has a lot of financially wealthy (but time poor) people (the same people who used to play golf). These people aren't interested in the cost effectiveness of an upgrade, just weather it will help them beat their friends up a hill on the Saturday ride.
Personally, I think using ~$200 carbon fiber water bottle cages to save 30 grams is a waste of money. But the truth is that the grams they save do add up, and the weight does make a difference on hills. If you don't care about money (!) then why not spend the money....
For me the price isn't about the weight, it's about me commuting in a city with huge hills, rain, and long flat stretches. My commute goes up and down several 300ft hills and across a long bridge (Seattle to Bellevue). So I end up riding a road bike with a large gear range and disc brakes. This isn't easy to setup, and my components cost more than the frame. When you commute every day 45 minutes each way, it also makes sense to spend some money on comfort (I mean that's 400 hours a year you are on the bike). Most people do it when they buy cars, it's the same think.
It completely depends on one's typical ride. If you're climbing 10% grades all day in lycra, then 5 lbs makes an enormous difference. If, on the other hand, you're carrying a 10 lbs lock and 40 lbs of stuff in your panniers, then, yeah, the weight of the bike won't matter that much. In the latter case a heavier bike may actually be better.
As much as everyone obsesses over weight, it's not the only difference between a $500 bike an a $5000. The more expensive components are also going to have more-difficult-to-quantify benefits like fit and finish (i.e., look prettier). The higher-end components also work better: shifting will be much more consistent, bearings will roll more freely, brakes won't require as much force, etc.
This is analogous to a car magazine complaining about how a particular model has a "mushy gearbox." You can still drive it, but the experience isn't as nice.
I hate, hate, hate the anti-scientific view that busted carbon promotes.
Carbon fiber's failure mode is different to metal - it breaks rather than bends. In most cases crashes that destroyed carbon frames would have also destroyed metal frames - but a frame bent out of alignment doesn't look as spectacular.
It is possible to build a bike from carbon fiber that fails in surprising ways (eg, clamping it in a bike carrier). That's because CF allows more flexibility in building with it, not because it is inherently weak.
If you want a strong carbon frame buy a cheap one. They typically use the same number of layer of fiber all over the frame (instead of trying to minimize weight in low strain parts) and they use plain woven fiber aligned randomly. That makes the bike heavier than a high-end frame, and not as strong for expected stresses (pedalling) as it could be for the same weight but it makes it more robust in the even on unexpected strains.
Yes, people get injured when they have bike crashes.
Yes (as I noted), carbon can fail. Metal can too!  is a much better survey of random broken bikes than bustedcarbon.  is a good summary of the hysteria around breaking carbon frames and some of the facts.
I guess one point is that carbon fails catastrophically more often, your metal links
point to breaks where the bike still stayed in one piece. Yeah, they're not unheard of with metal bikes, but much more rare.
The injury quote was about her getting injured because the
carbon frame just fell apart with no warning (no crash,
except after the frame failure of course).
I guess one point is that carbon fails catastrophically more often
- There are "scientific" reasons why these things break for no apparent reason. b/c carbon is prone to developing "flaws", not all of which are visible (to naked eye). These happen either through previous impact damage or fatigue cycles.
- Carbon failure can cascade (snap...snap...snap...). Once the structure is compromised, the lack of sheer strength combined with different-from-design force vectors...are not good (a two-sided trianle = wishbone...) Look at how many carbon parts had multiple, complete failures.
- A metal frame will dent or bend if damaged; it doesn't hide flaws nearly to the same extent. You might get a hairline crack, but unlikely 3-4 snapped cross-sections.
-Obviously, getting hit by a truck or whatever doen't matter what you are riding.
I hate, hate, hate the anti-scientific view that busted carbon promotes
WAT? Are you a materials engineer? Its CRP - carbon reinforce PLASTIC. The resin is prone to degradation from fatigue cycles. Raw carbon fiber without resin is brittle, think pencil leads. Bike racers (not sponsered) commonly race aluminum frame because a single "drop" if it doesn't render the fram unusable from catastrophic damage, can render it structurally unsound. That's the nature of carbon fiber. If my CF (CRP) motorcycle helmet so much as drops on the ground, it has to be X-rayed by by SHOEI to test for unseen damage that would render it unfit to work in an accident.
Strength is misleading for a material that is not tough. Steel frames and Titanium frames are far tougher than CF/CRP frames, they can survive crashes without catastrophic failure. Even the Pro-peleton used ALU drop bars for many years for two reasons (1) they bend, dont break in a crash; (2) CF bars don't reveal potentially catastrophic failure to the naked eye (like the moto Helmet example), so even A minor drop (if it looks ok and you keep going) is now a huge risk factor (when racing in close quarters - you bars break, you can take out alot of people).
If you need more "scientific" evidence, for any reason, use Google compare shear/failure points of epoxy resin (vs steel vs titanium vs Alu etc). Yes you can overbuild anything, but you need to understand the materials you are working with. And also, as those pictures show, in the REAL WORLD the stuff that is for sale BREAKS.
I'm torn over policies of targeting buyers of stolen goods. It's easy to think everyone buying stolen goods knows exactly what they are getting into.
Yet, not too long ago, I purchased a vehicle for a wholly reasonable price. I got the original pink slip. I got the keys. There were absolutely no signs of breaking & entering. Yet, I take it to the DMV to get registered, and what do you know- it's stolen property.
I lost my shirt on that deal, and it would have made it a million times worse if I was suddenly facing criminal charges.
Seriously, I hadn't even the slightest clue it was stolen- that is, until the police entered the DMV, looking straight at me. At that point there was only one thing that could be happening.
Yes, you can meet at the DMV and transfer ownership and registration together, in person. But, that can be a colossal pain, especially when you're busy all week and have to do this sort of thing on the weekend, when the DMV is closed.
These days I phone in to the police records department and ask them if the plate is stolen, but you just wouldn't think that would ever be necessary when you've got the keys, title, etc... Even the officers I spoke with were surprised & confused.
I live in the Netherlands, and bikes here are omnipresent. They also get stolen. A lot. Which is why most bikes you see in cities tend to be not too great looking.
About 10 years ago in the city of Utrecht the bike stealing was a really big problem. Here also the stealing of bikes is really hard to get caught with. The police used decoy bikes to catch thieves trying to steal those, but also this only catches small parts of them.
Ultimately this has been solved by also changing the way people handle this. If your bike got stolen, you just went out into the city, found a junkie, and often he had a bike for sale. If not he would have one 10 minutes later.
The police changed their approach to this, and started cracking down hard on the selling of bikes on the street. Not only the people selling them, but also the people buying the bike. Even going so far as police officers going undercover and trying to get people to buy bikes.
Within months the stealing of bikes dropped to near zero.
Freakonomics discusses the exact same factor with drug dealing and the oldest profession - adding risk to the seller results in increasing margins which attracts more sellers; whereas adding risk to the buyer results in the margins dropping too low to be worth even a small risk for the seller.
Also, when I see somebody on a re-sprayed bike, that hasn't obviously been re-sprayed with purely artistic intent, I want to beat them in the face until they die (lost too many bikes myself).
It's a curious line, and while when I read it I let it pass with conditional assent, I now think it's incorrect.
Wall Street has poorer-than-usual ethics, and does commit crimes for profit, but in general it is wary of the legal system. Wall Street tends not to exploit opportunities that run afoul of the legal system, even when they are risk-adjusted comparable to other opportunities. They would rather make money legally than illegally, if they can help it.
To use the wording of the article, Goldman Sachs (Wall Street) typically does not commit crimes when "the potential revenue from the crime [is] greater than the probability adjusted weight of getting caught", even if you set the adjusted revenue to average profitability.
In particular, Goldman Sachs (Wall Street) is gunshy with respect to the US legal system. From a charitable standpoint, perhaps this is out of an ethical respect for the law. From a cynical standpoint, perhaps there is another more involved risk calculation which takes into account long-term reputation and the unpredictability of political administrations and legal settlements. Given a long enough outlook cynical self-interest approaches ethics.
I've always wanted to buy a cheap bike and create a quick release bolt on the rear wheel that unspools as the wheel turns. I figure the culprit could get 3 or 4 revolutions before the back wheel falls off. Or maybe attach a length of wire to the front brake cable that wraps around the rear axel. Suddenly the wire snaps tight and yanks the front brakes. I figure it would make a good youtube series. My main fear is being stabbed to death by an angry bike thief...
Insurance companies will generally be quite happy to sue anyone they might be able to unload a bill on. If you get someone deliberately or negligently hurt in Europe, their insurance won't just roll over and pay their medical bills, either.
>in Europe, their insurance won't just roll over and pay their medical bills, either.
Sorry for being that European guy yet another time. But it is different in different countries. The Union's laws have higher priority than the countries laws. In this case though, the countries have their individual laws that go about giving everyone health care. So iirc correctly, here in communist Sweden no insurance companiy would be involved in the medical bills at all.
The "risk" as described here seems to account for only single incidences of bicycle theft. Seems like the more professional the bike thief, the larger the inventory of stolen bikes, thus the greater the penalty for being caught. Given that the value of stolen bikes on the market is relatively low, this might explain why there is no bike thief kingpin: at a certain point the risk exceeds the reward.
As an aside: I am surprised that the risk to kidnappers is considered higher than the risk to bank robbers. Can anyone explain this?
> I am surprised that the risk to kidnappers is considered higher than the risk to bank robbers. Can anyone explain this?
Kidnapping, if you're holding out for ransom, is like playing a game of hot potato but you have to wait for your opponent's go-ahead before you can toss it.
Kidnapping (if you're looking for a random) is about aquiring something you don't want and nobody wants you to have so that you can make a risky deal that exposes you. You run the risk of being set up, and even if the deal is done successfully I'd imagine you'd run the risk of revenge, especially with any target worth a large value.
I believe there are some studies showing that the risk of doing any jail time, as a binary measure, is the main way jail time deters crime, with length of sentence not being a particularly effective deterrent. If there's perceived to be a 1% risk of arrest for some crime, then whether the sentence is 6 months or 6 years tends not to matter a lot, because people tend to optimistically assume they won't be caught anyway and block the other possibility out of their mind.
Partly, iirc, because people are emboldened once they've successfully done something a few times and not gotten caught; they start convincing themselves that they've figured out how to beat the system, as opposed to just having gotten lucky so far. Hence I believe one of the most effective ways to deter shoplifting, for example, is just to catch a larger percentage of attempts, even if the punishment is nominal: if someone's caught on one of their first few attempts, many will be deterred from trying further, because getting caught becomes an observed reality rather than just a theoretical possibility that can be rationalized away. Basically, some percentage of people test the boundaries but will stop trying if they get some evidence that the boundaries are really there.
I think you're underestimating how a lot of people live and what they value and then people are also underestimating what's bad about jail.
If we assume that death and sexual assault are not going to happen in this 5 days I would guess most people would do it and from what I've read it's pretty rare for either of those things to happen in the short term jails, it's prison that's the bigger risk -- and even then apparently sexual assault is way exaggerated in the media.
Can you describe what your friends have described happening in jail that makes you so against it? From the AMAs people have done on reddit about jail and prison it seems jail is something anyone with the ability to enjoy their own company can get through with ease, although I guess it could be that your country uses jail and prison as an interchangeable term?
I think you're underestimating how a lot of people live and what they value
Probably, I view $10K as a lot of money but that I expect to make, and do not need to go to jail to get.
If we assume that death and sexual assault are not going to happen in this 5 days
You can't. You will be in a facility with people awaiting trial for murder, violent acts, prostitution, hardcore drugs etc. They may segregate them, they may not, you won’t know until you get in there.
A holding cell has mainly people arrested for crimes that are not remotely serious.
Can you describe what your friends have described happening in jail that makes you so against it?
My 2 friends that have been to jail primarily mentioned that the people were way different and being stuck there felt much more real. Normally when people go to a holding cell our age they are not sober. After 24 hours you become pretty sober.
although I guess it could be that your country uses jail and prison as an interchangeable term?
I live in the US. Jails are for misdemeanors and people awaiting trail, prisons are for people convicted of felonies.
it's not the time in jail that would deter me. I mean, let me bring a book, and I'd do 24 hours in a holding cell for two grand. Heck, you could probably talk me into doing it for free if I was reasonably certain of my safety, I had some free time, and I could call it a "journalistic experience" and write about it without anyone thinking I had actually done anything wrong.
This is, I think, one of the weird things about the legal system. As someone without a record, getting any criminal record at all would have a staggeringly high cost to me. I wouldn't take even a misdemeanour for $10K. If I already had a record? eh, what's a few days spent reading?
> In 1968, Chicago economist Gary Becker introduced the notion that criminal behavior could be modeled using conventional economic theories.
We need to start examining the motivations for cracking in the same way. Locks in the real world are far from foolproof, and work as much or more because of societal expectations and economics than they do because of their embodied technology.
What most companies do with DRM ignores reality in two important ways:
1) Your own technological capability and manpower can be overwhelmed
by the tech and manpower available to the Internet as a whole.
2) If you have something of significant monetary or prestige value,
you are not going to secure it with a single supremely clever lock.
Real world security consists of a defense in depth. Real locks and safes aren't burglar-proof. Instead, they are rated to delay thieves for a certain length of time. Their purpose is to increase the risk of the transaction thereby making it uneconomical.
Crackers will always win if the payoff is worth the effort.
Presently, any software downloaded to a user's machine can be cracked. Therefore, do not try to prevent that -- it's a losing battle. Refuse the things that you can economically refuse. (Server-side functionality, service and support, participation online.)
Detection is 1000X as powerful, if the consequences are separated in time from the actual detection. If you give the game away immediately, you are providing your opponent data. If the consequences are delayed by 3 days or even several months, the economics of cracking become like the economics of fixing intermittent bugs and Heisenbugs.
Security needs to focus on economic leverage. Since your opponents have more time and capability than you, you need to ensure that they are spending 1000X more resources to combat your actions. Instead of needing to catch them every time, or your game is lost, make them need to catch you every time, or their game is lost. (The robber needs to get away with the heist every time, while the police only need to catch him once. However, the guerrilla fighters only need to get away with a raid occasionally, while the occupiers need to catch them every time. Yet in both situations, the 1st party has far fewer resources. Something to think about.)
I've heard rumors that lots of stolen bikes are exported on container ships leaving the US. The argument is that the shipping is basically free, since most ships are carrying large deliveries to the US and are empty on the return trip.
I was at a Wal-Mart in Shenzhen China and noticed a lot of used bicycles. I couldn't explain why they stocked used bicycles. Could have nothing to do with what you're saying, or they could have been stolen bicycles from somewhere else. In the US, bicycles sold at retail stores like Wal-Mart are new. http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyatkinson/392577801/
Not terribly hard to find out -- the bike generates its own power, and is run outside. A few bikes with GPS and call-home device (powered by the bike) would draw traces to their destinations pretty quickly.
For a reason I can't reply to you brk but I used the same ideas.
My last question was about communicating openly or not about it.
- Openly would make robber aware and probably come up with attacks
or blocking means, but that would surely render their activities
a lot more complicated. Could be mass-produced.
- Secretly a few people would have it and use it as bait, and
authorities being aware of the scheme would casually catch robbers
later. No mass-production
Oh one more thing, I was thinking about using a cellular module with custom firmware to reply to text messages with gps position but I'm not sure it's feasible.
Me too. Especially of it were a factory installed option. You could probably encapsulate the electronics in one of the frame tubes, which would mean it would be welded in to the bike. Impossible to detect casually, and nearly impossible to easily defeat without destroying the bike itself.
Given the ratio of hours ridden to power draw of a small tattletale device, you could probably put a couple of magnets on the crank assembly (inside the tube the connects the crank to the frame), along with a couple hundred coils of wire and create a very nice charging circuit. It might take even 100 hours of riding to build up an initial charge, but I'm guessing that would be no problem in a typical scenario, even if it took 2 weeks to get there.
Agreed. I would fund this on Kickstarter, such stings should be positive externalities in the metro they are set up in. I wonder if there have been any sting initiatives on Kickstarter thus far and what laws would allow for (it's been done before, to catch a predator, anyone?)
Almost everyone I work with in London has had a bike stolen (or a least a wheel or two), and everyone I know who owns a bike also has insurance. Not great evidence, but I'm not sure theft is any lower.
Is all the cameras in the UK effective in any way? I mean, to know that the criminal wore a black hoodie and black pants at the time of the crime doesn't give more information than maybe sex, hoodie, pants and maybe a rough estimation of age.
Is it a potent law-tool for Londoners? What was the reasoning for getting so very many? How do people generally feel about them?
You are retro feeding the system when you buy an stolen item, even in good faith not knowing it has been stolen. A possible way out is to check the serial number of the frame. Most modern bikes have a serial number engraved in the bottom bracket. Before buying a second hand bike, check the serial number online, just Google it. See if the previous (sad) owner had posted a notice on the incident somewhere: blog, dedicated site to stolen bikes etc. If you happen to find confirmation, you know what to do.
I dont know if its common in the anywhere else but in my town here in germany the stealing of bike-PARTS has become very popular. I guess the owners of high-value bikes use better locks, that are actually hard to break ( like those: http://ebay.muskelkater-sport.de/fahrrad/schloesser/bordo-gr... ). But for Parts the risk is even lower and a good break or light system can yield a few bucks.
I personally use a cheap ( 50€ ) used bike as a daily driver, in combination with a 30€ lock, there will mostly be an easier/better target for the thief and if it ever gets stolen, its just 50 (80) bucks and not 1000€.
Yup, very popular here in SF. I recently just got my wheels stolen. Also had a few seats stolen as well. Stealing parts is probably more common than stealing entire bikes. And if you look at the pictures of the stolen bikes linked in the article, most of them are missing a front wheel, which to me, implies that the thieves were targeting bikes that were only locked by their front wheel (or they were selling the front wheels of the bikes, as those are pretty common theft targets as well).
A woman at work had her bike stolen in SF (off the front of a bus if you can believe that) and decided to go to every flea-market she could find in Oakland that weekend. When she found the bike she just took it and dared the guy selling it to do something about it. She just rode away. :)
My experience has been most bike thieves are kids. It's a training in a way for car thieves. They chop the bikes up, and paint them, then ride or sell them. bikes are a valuable commodity in bad neighborhoods cuz lots of people can't afford cars and public transportation might not take them where they need to go.
A suitably sociopathic individual could probably have a beneficial effect on the bike theft rates in a city by just going around to the places where stolen bikes are sold and beating the sellers mostly to death with a baseball bat. That'd be an intriguing experiment for an economist with the right sort of anti-social personality disorder (which is all of them, so I feel silly making the distinction).
Really? I just went to a shop to look at bikes (and a real bike shop, not Wal-Mart), and there were options in the $300-$400 range. At Wal-Mart and Target and the like, you can get bikes in the $100-$200 range (or really crappy ones for even cheaper).
That's not true. I bought a brand new Schwinn at Walmart for $140 after taxes. Its not a very good bike but its good for what I bought it for, i.e. trips to coffee shop without worrying for it to be stolen. My other bike is a $2.5k Specialized Tarmac which I don't use casually
Does anyone actually use priceonomics.com? I'm sorry, but I don't find the service useful at all. They come up with viral blog posts all the time, but the service is not actually something that I would use.
When I was looking to buy an Aeron chair, I used it to learn the range of market prices, and even was able to negotiate the seller down with the information from the site. I wouldn't have been able to get such a comprehensive view (in any reasonable amount of time) by just reading through CL. So yes it has been pretty useful to me.
The best workaround I know of for bike commuting is bike share programs. (US examples: "Nice Ride" in Minneapolis or "Capital Bikeshare" in DC). In these examples, the bikes are large, relatively unattractive, limited functionality (3 speeds), have distinctive designs, and these things to me I'm hoping remove the incentive to steal the bike.
The current police policy is to not investigate thefts under some threshold, say $2000. So you can steal bikes all day long and never get caught. A better policy would be to investigate thefts of value X with probability X / $4000. It's roughly the same total work, but doesn't create a safe haven for low-value thieves.
This is an area where a disruptive technology is due. Imagine if even 10% of bikes had technology that wirelessly sends out GPS coordinates or can identify the owner via an embedded RFID tag. Suddenly stealing bikes is not nearly as risk free and the incentive to participate is greatly reduced.
I love priceonomics, every time I read one of their articles I learn something new (for example I didn't realize you could exchange a stolen bike for sex). Approaching this as an economics problem seems like a good approach. I think if bike manufacturers built in ways to uniquely identify bikes, and those idents were economically infeasible to remove, then you could do a bitcoin style distributed database of the current 'real' owner of a bike, then the cops could periodically go into 7th and Market or where ever, collect all the stolen bikes and tell their owners they are recovered. If you remove 1/2 the bad dealers inventory every month its going to cut into their profits, and if they stop buying stolen bikes in bulk you make it harder to flip them etc etc.
Most (all?) bikes have a serial number stamped on the bottom of the 'bottom bracket' the part that the pedals go into. These serial numbers are unique per bike brand, but not universally unique.
The serial is pretty hard to remove, without it's removal being obvious to anyone that looks, though the brand can be removed or changed - if that happens the serial wouldn't show as stolen.
If there was a lookup for serials then you could check if the bike was stolen, or if the bike was incorrectly branded (serial doesn't match brand), but there isn't a central place for this, unless the (ex)owner registers it on a service such as immobilise.com
My fiance's bike was stolen a few months ago. By coincidence someone who was a friend of a friend of her's ended up buying it off of craigslist. We discovered this when he arrived at a BBQ riding her bike. When we asked about the details of his purchase, he sent us all the email correspondance with the bike thief.
The thief had actually given him the serial number of the bike, which he checked in the online police database and it returned no hits. The catch was that the thief slightly altered the serial number so that it wouldn't yield any hits. When he went to actually look at the bike he didn't notice the subtle difference in the serial number and assumed it to be legit.
Motor vehicle VINs in North America use a check digit to detect VIN errors, which consequently makes it hard to modify a VIN without failing checks at time of purchase (such as when the VIN is looked up via CarFax or at the DMV). It's not cryptographically "hard" to modify it, but additional check digits up the difficulty (like appending a hash to the plaintext serial number).
The OCR-A character set used in the MICR numbers on checks makes it easy to spot a modification like the one in your story.
We did that a couple of times with a mains-powered angle grinder and a mini generator. In the middle of the afternoon, in a shopping street. Got some funny looks, I can tell you. Nobody said anything though. Certainly didn't get shot.
Around where I live there's definitely another factor to consider: Opportunity theft. A lot of bikes get stolen simply because it's very easy to do so, especially downtown. On the weekends when there are lots of drunk people around, a _LOT_ of bikes get stolen simply because people are too lazy to walk or they just find it funny to steal a bike. These bikes sure as hell don't end up at some kind of black market, instead they are simply left at some place and somebody else picks them up. It's like a never-ending cycle of bike theft. Also it doesn't help that most bike locks are ridiculously easy to break.
Another thing that I've noticed (I'm an avid freeride-biker) is that there are actually gangs that target high-end bikes. They have spies at known bike-trails and follow people home. If they see an expensive bike they break into cellars, garages and sometimes even people's apartments just to steal a bike. The bikes are then taken apart and most components are sold right away (a second hand fork in good shape can still go for $1000+ in some cases) and the frame itself is shipped abroad and sold separately. I'm actually very paranoid because it's happened to two friends already... :/
One of the links hidden away in the article is actually quite amusing:
It is a video if a guy stealing a bike a few times with saw/crowbar etc. (Except it's actually a hidden camera setup and it's his bike. Spoiler alert: Many people walk by, noone cares)
I'm sure a significant portion especially in the high end can be explained by rational actors with pretty low prospects. But I'm suspicious that there isn't a lot more of the less rational going on. The hoarder mentioned in the article may not be an outlier and bike theft is also sort of a low stakes learning ground.
In anything approaching an urban center I see a lot of abandoned bikes (locked and slowly vultured.) They are generally attributed to lazy owners, but a portion may be decaying inventories of hoarders, joy riders and/or thrill seekers.
I'm reminded of inventories of locks on urban fences. Obviously the collections of not so rational (but social or antisocial) actors.
I think a good urban experiment would be a collection system that pays ~$5 a bike (and gives immunity once you arrive) and charges ~$7.50 to a verifiable owner before selling back into the free market of "used" bikes. A little cross between a repo-man and the can man, to keep the things a little tighter and make it more likely lessons are learnt on the cheap.
A few months ago I saw a tweaked-out guy at 6th & Howard in San Francisco (just outside the Techshop) literally trying to saw-off a U-lock in broad daylight. A bunch of other homeless guys were lazily watching with amusement.
I really would love to build a pepperspray-bomb-in-a-U-lock, if only I could do so without being instantly sued by a litigious thief.
I love these Freakenomic-y types of articles. Really makes you think about very every day occurrences in different ways.
I thought maybe I could add some game theory into the mix, just for the sake of it. For example...
Following an economic perspective it could be viewed, given the suggestions made in the article, that for your average bike on the street it is almost impossible to protect against theft using a lock or by any other "practical" means. Therefore (bare with me) when you park your bike on the street you are in a sense "competing" with other cyclist in presenting the worst return for the criminal. Locks, paint jobs, parking locations etc. are just ways of saying to the thief "Hey, this is going to be difficult. Why not have a go at stealing that shiny looking bike next to mine." You are not solely competing against the criminals but your fellow cyclists!
I wasn't surprised by the drugs part, but learning that stolen bikes are considered street currency actually makes me more bullish on Bitcoin. It's still a terrible idea, but it's got to be more convenient than using bikes as currency.
I wonder what would happen if the criminal world started experiencing hyperdeflation?
Sure, buy crack with Bitcoins, and wait around for 20 minutes for the block chain to verify. The same delay that makes it irritating for legal in person transfers makes it useless for hand to hand criminal transfers.
A Dutch friend once told me that bike theft in Holland was pretty ripe, but it was more of a social norm; people wouldn't feel bad about stealing a rubbish bike and then leaving it somewhere for someone else to steal.. the bikes would almost become communal bikes.
When I was a college student, I had my bikes stolen so often that I did two things: First, I started buying hot bikes cheap because, hey, legal bikes were expensive.
Second, I wrapped the frame of one bike in masking tape and smeared grease and paint on it. I kept that one for years; not even the local junkies wanted it. I guess they didn't notice my servicable Campy brakes and shifters, or didn't see the value in them.
I'm not sure the rational-actor theory applies to bike theft.
UNLESS it's the bike dealers behind the theft rings doing it to create demand, and they're just crushing the old stuff. Bwahahahahahaha. There's a batman movie in that villain theory.
What kind of insurance options exist in the US for bikes?
Over here your basic home insurance covers the bike theft minus a deductible (often something like 200e). Then
you can get a separate bike insurance for 25e/year which
will cover the deductible and also register the bikes serial number in a database and they (claim to) do some cooperation with the police and border officials to flag stolen bike serial numbers and return stolen bikes to owners. Your
bike also gets a special sticker which probably repels
bike thieves. Many retailers automatically preregister bikes with this service and include 3 months of free insurance, and include ads for the full service...
How about a bike with a combo lock built into its gears so that all the gears will only spin if the correct combo is given. The built-in combo lock can also be rigged to detonate some wired-in explosive if someone attempts to forcefully remove it.
That's a flawed lock strategy. I wouldn't ever want to do that. I always include the rear wheel and the seat-tube (or seat-stays) inside my D-lock.
"There is no need to loop it around the seat tube as well, because the wheel cannot be pulled through the rear triangle."
The two simple methods I've seen for defeating it (based on seeing just mangled rear wheels locked up to railings/bike racks) is to:-
a) Stamp on the rear wheel and fold it so that it fits through the rear triangle. (No tools required).
b) Cut a bunch of spokes (easy to do with a pair of wire cutters) and press the rear wheel flat so that it fits through the rear triangle.
The rear wheel on one of my main bikes is £100; the rest of the bike is £1500. No chance I'm going to risk that.
Thieves won't care about not having a rear wheel if they're sticking bikes in the back of a van to sort out or sell off at a later date.
Sadly Sheldon isn't alive today to discuss and review that strategy.
I think there is a decent underground operation of used bikes: I recently bought a bike off a used car bike shop in mountain view ( off of shoreline ). You walked in and there were 500 bikes ( in all shapes and sizes ) available. From vintage to kids to racing. You name it. I always wondered where they got their bikes from. Most bike owners dont report, keep track of the bike ids. And police dont have incentives to track them. If the margins weren't there, people wont steal them.
One of the things I noticed when I was in Copenhagen for a week earlier this year was that people don't lock up their bikes as much. I saw lots of people leaving bikes unlocked when going into coffee shops, etc. when in the UK they'd be locking 'em up.
There were many bikes that were locked - but they looked more like "commuter bikes" near the metro and office buildings. Folk using them to get around during the day often seemed to leave them unlocked.
Every bike is worth stealing, unfortunately. I had beater bikes stolen, one had duct tape on the rims, another one with visibly busted rear brake. I probably couldn't have sold them if I tried to; but then I don't sell to sketchy characters for $10 or part of a hit.
Crazy idea time: since the problem with the demand end is the difficulty of telling the difference between stolen property and legitimate secondhand sales, what would happen if all sales of secondhand bikes were banned? Would the reduction in theft be worth the loss of end-of-life revenue plus slight erosion of liberty? Not a rhetorical question, I don't know the answer.
I wonder if the large number of stolen bikes on the market basically depresses local prices to the extent that even if you have to buy a new bike you don't lose that much vs a world with minimal bike theft. The Japanese market might be relevant, as 10-15 years ago there was seemingly little bike theft and now it's rampant in certain areas.
In NYC most stolen bikes are resold to delis and pizza shops for their delivery guys. Ever wonder why the minimum wage delivery guy is riding a $800 cannondale? They usually wrap the frame in duct tape so you don't recognize it. Get flat or a Bent rim? Just buy a new one from your local crackhead for $25 and you are on your way.
If I had more time I do believe I'd enjoy getting a fairly fancy bicycle, having a friend park it up, lock it with a fairly crap lock, and then just chill out at a nearby cafe watching it, waiting for some piece of shit to steal it, and then following them and seeing where they go with it/beating the everliving shit out of them.
In Berkeley, Karim Cycle is a "used bike" shop infamous for fencing stolen bikes. Everyone knows it, but proving it is too much work for the police. The Yelp reviews are funny but disheartening: http://www.yelp.com/biz/karim-cycle-berkeley-3
I know of someone who would steal bikes just to get back home from the bar. He was too cheap for a taxi. He had a huge stash of them in his basement because he didn't know what to do with them. So when he had parties at his house he started giving them to people so they could get home.
What happens to stolen bicycles? Seriously, what happens to them? This article doesn't begin to address the question within the first paragraph, and if they can't format their article properly I can't justify spending time reading it.
The one thing I would've liked to see was the age breakdown of the offenders. I remember vividly in junior high there was a kid who stole BMX bikes, soldered off the serial number and then re-sold them for around $300 a piece. He got to be like a professional car thief in that he would take requests if someone wanted something specific.
It was a very lucrative side business for a 12 year old kid.