Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In the wake of the recent theft of Brian’s bicycle, Hal Ruzal, a mechanic at Bicycle Habitat, offers tips on how to prevent bike robbers from nabbing your wheels.


Hal Ruzal

Comments [59]

megan from east village

My bike got stolen this weekend too - daylight, outside a restaurant, in my view and I missed it...Solution - get a cheaper bike with a bigger lock! I feel violated!

Jun. 03 2009 08:17 PM
Jonthan from Brooklyn

I'm really sorry to hear about this stolen bike and glad that Brian is one more person riding his bike around the city. That said, I found this to be a frustrating story to listen to in that it completely missed the elephant in the room: The problem is not what lock to buy or how to lock you bike but how to make completely safe bike parking in the city. We live in one of the most theoretically bikeable places in the world if we had better biking infrastructure. Clearly great strides are being made by the city to create better bike lanes and push for indoor bike parking. Maybe this has been covered in some of your past shows but I wish you would take this opportunity to shine a light on these problems. As long as there are a few drug addicts with basic tools around the city ordinary people should and will be afraid to park their bikes on the street so they won't buy or ride them. There is a great system of 24 hour parking garages in nyc. If half of them would let you park your bike for a reasonable cost it would make things much easier, and could be profitable for them. We also need to educate car drivers that bikes have a place on the streets of New York City. And yes, we need to educate city bikers that they are not vigilantes with license to disobey every traffic law and buzz pedestrians. More pedestrian and biking friendly streets can make our city a happier more peaceful place to exist. Please use your terrific show to take these issues on in a serious way. If New Yorker can't envision the city that we could have, if we don't all talk about it. Thanks!

Jun. 03 2009 05:04 PM
Michael Green from brooklyn, NY

Just wanted to tell Brian that I was saddened to hear his bike was stolen over the weekend. I know the feeling...I was the guy who gave my bike to a total stranger for a "test ride" and they proceeded to ride off with it. To the kindness of the NYC bike community and a lot of luck, I was able to get the bike back a month later.

read all about it here:

Because of my fortune, I started a free service on my blog: where I list people's stolen bikes on a separate page.

The purpose of the page is not necessarily to prevent the initial theft but build a network of compassionate bike enthusiasts who can be on the look out and try and get the bikes back to their owners. Its a place people can identify stolen bikes and for those love ones of their stolen property to list where and when the bikes were stolen.

As Hal Ruzal pointed out on your show, Bike theft is a low profit game usually committed by drug addicts who quickly turn the bikes around on the street for a quick fix.

I would love to list Brian's bike on my page with details of the bike and where it was stolen.

In the meantime I'd love to follow along as Brian gets another bike and maybe even help with the process.

Blogging for over five years about NYC bike culture helped me to build up quite a network.

Sorry the here about the news...lets get Brian his bike back!

Michael Green

Jun. 03 2009 11:44 AM
James B from NYC

How 'bout another possible solution: we lock up everyone caught stealing bikes for a LONG time & stop whinnin about why our prisons are so 'overcrowded' & wake up to the fact that there are a lot more bad people out there doing bad things to other innocent people who need to be put in prison. When crime is completely gone, then we can consider whether there are too many people in prison - until then, there are obviously too many people not yet there who should be! Property crimes are still in the millions. Lock 'em up & make clear to everyone who contemplates commiting such crimes that the price, if caught, is sure long encarceration.

Jun. 03 2009 02:48 AM
Frankie from Harlem

My bike was stolen by the local Domino’s delivery guy in Harlem right outside my apt.door. Weeks later while walking by the store, I spotted my bike. I spoke with the franchise owner & manager who couldn’t care less. Why did one delivery guy have a Trek (mine) and all the others were driving Huffy’s? I got no response. It left me speechless to see my bike being used to deliver the worst pizza in NYC. I went to the police and showed them proof of purchase, vin #, photos of me on the bike, owners manual. I filled out a report and the officer decided my bike was a lost item not a stolen item in my report. I made the officer change my report and tried to get the police to go and claim my property with out any success. I even called corporate Domino’s and wrote them a ltr with no response.

Here's a company who would not come to Harlem in the 70's or 80's and now that they are here on the island of Manhattan and are not a very good neighbor. I thought you might want to do a story on this considering bike riding is now so popular it is a public service for us to inform the world of bike thefts and since nasty chain stores are taking over our city and squeezing out the small biz owners and delivery people are driving on bikes which are stolen, no helmets, lights, etc. Here's the scoop why I lost in small claims court. Franchise owners apparently are not responsible for their employees. It's a bit like being a bike messenger. Dominos staff just gets a shirt and a hat and must supply their own bike. Even though they steal while on duty the court has sided with the franchise owner. What bothers me the most is that the franchise owner was a real jerk who could of easily wrote this off on his insurance and could be a nice community business owner. In court, the owner admitted that the bike in question could be mine and most likely was mine and was on his premises but again why would he be responsible for the staff he hires?

Jun. 02 2009 10:54 PM
joan from east village

Ive lived in Amsterdam & they advise cyclists on how to lock a amsterdam- we said lock it to the 'fixed world', never lock at the center of your frame it can be rocked back and forth like a lever and boom they have the bike. Hal is right- many locks are a deterent--- for awhile and then just plan luck after that. Then I moved back here, locked a bike in front of Federal Plaza- with security cameras- and it was stolen. the olice could care less. reporting a stolen bike to them is a laughable act. they don't care. It feels like some sort of voilation to have one stolen.

Jun. 02 2009 07:01 PM
David from Manhattan

You also have to make sure your locks are VISIBLE.

If your locks are black and/or inconspicuously placed, idiot thieves will still mangle your bike trying to remove parts, before they even realize they're locked down!

Make sure your locks are VISIBLE to a------- would-be thieves.

Jun. 02 2009 04:16 PM

Basically, four choices:

1) Heavy-duty (and heavy!) u-lock & chain (still leaves bike open to vandalism and stripping)

2) Guarded bike parking/valet

3) Bicycle lockers with card access

4) Bicycle alarm. This assuming there are good samaritans or police officers in earshot, which there ought to be in NYC.

Jun. 02 2009 12:25 PM

Alison, yes, but only the locks that use a circle-shaped key (a "tubular pin tumbler" lock in the lingo).

Jun. 02 2009 12:12 PM

Jun. 02 2009 12:02 PM
MJB from East Village, NYC

More than one lock is the only way to go. The Kryptonite "Fuggedaboutit" comes with insurance, and as Hal (a NYC legend, by the way) mentioned, supplement this with an auxiliary cable (Kryptonite makes a long one for not very much money). I have a very nice fixed-gear bike that I had built for me by Bike Works on Ridge Street, and I always secure the bike with both locks. The long cable slips through the seat-supports, securing my Brooks saddle, then through both wheels, then is secured to the U-lock and a sign-post or bike rack. Basically, the more complicated you make it look, the more of a deterrent you have.

All this being said, NEVER leave your bike locked up on the street overnight or long-term.

As with anything else in NYC, for all of history, if it ain't bolted down, they WILL try to take (or vandalize) it.

Jun. 02 2009 11:53 AM
Cassandra from Brooklyn

I have a Kryptonite metal chain that I lock through both the front and back tires. The chain doesn't actually go through the frame, but because it attaches both wheels to the pole (a high pole not a parking meter, that the bike could easily be lifted off of), the bike is secure. I have a fairly nice bike and have never had any problems with the wheels, although the seat was stolen once, which is why the bike now has a an old bike chain securing the seat on. The chain would be fairly easy to break but it deters seat thieves.

Jun. 02 2009 11:24 AM
the truth from bkny


Jun. 02 2009 11:13 AM
Carol Marsh from Brooklyn

Brian, I want to turn you to a great organization and a place to get a used or new bike. It's called Re-cycle -a-Bicycle. It's a non-profit with storefronts in the East village, Dumbo (the original) and in Queens. they work with young people in schools teaching them to fix bikes. If the kids work a certain number of hours they can earn a bike. In Brooklyn on Thurs. nights anyone can bring their bike in and work on it. There are always people to help. My son has worked for them on and off since he did his high school community service there. Their phone no. is 718 -258-9752, 35 Pearl Street, Brooklyn, NY. Their website is They would be great to interview. And a great place for you to get a new bike. The can build you one just to your specifications!

Jun. 02 2009 11:02 AM
Loretta Rae from NYC

I wonder what sort of solutions we could devise.

Perhaps there could bike parking that is guarded, like parking garages. Pay a small fee or a monthly fee, and you know your bike is safe.

Logistically this might prove difficult, but it's worth thinking about.

Jun. 02 2009 11:02 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

We lost two bikes together at the same time locked up breifly outside PC Richards on 14th Street on Columbus Day 2007. They were attached to a street bike stand and were just a few feet out of range of an NYU security camera. Since then I have wondered about coordinating bike stands with security cameras.

The good thing is that I managed to go about 39 years as a busy cyclist without having my bike stolen- Unless you want to go back even further, about 50 years, when I had my tricycle stolen on 3rd Avenue and 20th Street- But it wasn't locked up.

Jun. 02 2009 11:02 AM

When I worked at J&R, c. 1991, I came out the front door--a lot of foot traffic, of course-- to see a guy using a 2x4 to steal a bike that was locked to the temporary scaffolding. In sales mode, I said, "Can I help you?"

He was on his last move, apparently, because he looked at me andimmediately broke the lock and hopped on the bike, taking off down the sidewalk.

"Stop thief!" I shouted over and over, while chasing him up Park Row.

As we neared the corner, near Pace Univ., a passing car joined the chase and when they guy got to the street, tried to knock him over.

He got away down the side street.

The whole kerfuffle was over in a moment, the tide flowed on, and life on Park Row resumed as normal.

No one ever came into J&R to ask what happened to his bike.

Jun. 02 2009 11:02 AM
Karen from NYC

Final comment: my sister once carried her very expensive bike into the Board of Ed in downtown Brooklyn rather than leave it locked up on the street. The guards at the Board of Ed insisted that carrying bikes into the Building violated "procedures" and, when my sister refused to leave the bike outside, called the cops -- so my sister almost got arrested trying to prevent her bike from being stolen.

Jun. 02 2009 11:02 AM
Tamsyn from Brooklyn

My most blatant experience:
Walked into my building for work after locking my bike directly outside (18th between 5&6th). I returned one hour later and bike was gone. I asked the security guard and he said "Oh, someone just left with it...uh, maybe you can catch them (?!). Turns out a bike messenger claimed he lost his key so asked the security guard for a tool to break open the the famous words of Homer Simpson, DUH!

Jun. 02 2009 10:58 AM
hjs from 11211

and where is he now?

Jun. 02 2009 10:58 AM
Karen from NYC

Also, when I was a student at Columbia, I'd leave my bike chained up at a bike rack on College Walk AND remove the wheel and take it to class. I heard stories about the bikes at the bike racks being stolen, despite being locked up, and I wasn't taking any chances.

Jun. 02 2009 10:57 AM
Karen from NYC

My husband rode a bike for years to run his business (he's a general contractor and rode from project to project) and has had FIVE bikes stolen. The best (worst) story: someone broke into a van on Riverside Drive in which the bike had been left and took the bike, even though the wheels had been locked with Kryptonite locks. Therefore, either the thief carried the bike away, or first broke into the van, and then clipped two Kryptonite locks.

Now we live in the suburbs and keep the bikes in the garage.

Jun. 02 2009 10:56 AM
London from Jackson Heights NY

The NYPD registers bicycles for free at all local precincts. If everyone registered their bikes it would make it easier for the police to arrest bike thieves and it only takes a few minutes.

Jun. 02 2009 10:55 AM
ESTEBAN MAUCHI from manhattan- midtown west

My bike got stolen in front of a restaurant in the East Village with outdoor tables, I was inside the restaurant when I came out everyone dinning at the outdoor area told me how a group of kids snapped the lock with a pipe and stole my 3 month old bike.

Jun. 02 2009 10:55 AM
Citizen from Bushwick

NYC Artists Neistat brothers demonstrate how easy it is to steal a bike DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF PEOPLE

Jun. 02 2009 10:55 AM
kate from brooklyn

brian, sorry to hear about your loss! i had a beautiful bike stolen a few years ago. i liked that bike more than i liked most people. when i eventually went to the bike shop to replace it, i met a VERY CUTE BOY who worked there. he and i got to know each other and he later became the best boyfriend in the world. thank goodness i had that bike stolen!

Jun. 02 2009 10:54 AM
Crystiina Avram from East Village

I keep my hybrid bike locked overnight in the EV. I have a massive Kryptonite lock through the frame and back wheel, and then a $12 cable through the front. Sure they could get through the cable, but most thieves would go through the hassle for a mid quality wheel.

Jun. 02 2009 10:54 AM
Ny from NY

I have been on a bike for 30 years. one stolen... a long time ago.. but in the last three months I have had two randalism incidents... one someone bent my handle bars and then the other was someone put rice pudding on my seat and handle bars... gross! I park my bike right near a rice pudding shop...

Jun. 02 2009 10:54 AM
Jennifer Hickey from Bayside, Queens

1997. Jersey City. A&P. I was doing my weekly shopping. I had locked my Giant moutain bike to the trash can in front of the store. It was 2pm on a Saturday. People walking in and out of the store. Was in the store for no more than 20 minutes. By the time I come out, my bike is gone and the remnants of my cryptonite lock are hanging from the trash can. And no one saw anything!

Jsut an aside, my parents car was stolen a week later.

Jun. 02 2009 10:54 AM

these stories of guilting bike robbers!

Am I the only one who is downright embarrassed at the low character demonstrated by our bike robbers? what has become of our once great and nasty city? brian i suggest you post something on craigslist to your robber that's just dripping with shameful intonations.

Jun. 02 2009 10:54 AM
Brent from NYC

I witnessed two guys steal a bike in under ten seconds on 2nd ave on the UES. One guy sat on the bike and the other guy walked up with bolt cutters, cut and grabbed the chain while his partner rode off. It happened so quickly that I didn't have a chance to say anything and it seemed as though no one else noticed...

Jun. 02 2009 10:53 AM
Nina from East Village

Yes -- stickers!!! Wrap your bike in inner tube & cover it in stickers!!! Make your bike uniquely ugly!

Jun. 02 2009 10:53 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

If you want to get an interesting debate going, ask about the question of using RF tags to trace bikes. It could be a solution but offends the libertarian sensibility.

Jun. 02 2009 10:53 AM
Joseph from Brooklyn

Did you register the bike with the National Bike Registry?

Jun. 02 2009 10:52 AM
Nina from East Village

Hal is great. I love that video.
I used a u-lock to attach the front wheel to the frame, and a Kryptonite Evolution chain lock through the frame, back wheel, and seat to the post. I also have a chain that attaches the seat to the frame.
Try to use municipal parking posts. NEVER lock your bike on scaffolding! Be careful locking your bike to an ordinary streetlamp overnight. I had 2 bikes stolen on a busy street. Now I lock on a side street and so far, so good. Of course, someone did steal my cheapo bell.
And it drives me nuts that people use my basket as a garbage pail.

Jun. 02 2009 10:52 AM
Carrie from Brooklyn

My fiance had his bike stolen from our front stoop, and a few weeks later saw it chained outside a local pizza place. He went in to tell the owner it was his stolen bike. The owner offered to give it back, apparently unaware it was "hot," but my fiance opted for a free slice instead.

Jun. 02 2009 10:52 AM
Marcelo from Park Slope

I carry 2 locks on my bike. A Kryptonite Ulock I use for quick stops and a Kryptonite chain. I use both 99% of the time. I also have the keyed wheel release.

Jun. 02 2009 10:52 AM
stefano from 11206

Had my trek 1000 stolen on houston and lafayette. sometime between 8 am and 2 pm. heard that a lot of bikes get snatched in that area. many shops with power tools around there. Once had my handlebar and stem stolen outside KMart at Astor place. That whole area is bad

Jun. 02 2009 10:52 AM
Carl from East Village

What does your host think of the Kryptonite replacements for all of those quick-release elements?

Jun. 02 2009 10:52 AM
maria from bklyn

Hey, My friend got her bike stolen, but it was a fancy bike that had some sort of numbers on it that were registered to her. when the thief re-sold her bike (at a flea market in BKLYN) the new owner brought in in to get repaired and the bike shop recognized the numbers and called my friend in. She was able to discuss the issue with the new owner and luckily she payed the person the amount she had bought the bike for, and got her bike back!

Jun. 02 2009 10:50 AM
Hal from Crown Heights

I grew up in Forest Hills Queens, and had five bicycles stolen between the ages of 12 and 20.

My strategy ever since has been to not leave my bicycle unattended, locked or not, anywhere but inside my home.

Haven't had a problem since.

Jun. 02 2009 10:50 AM
Lance from Miami

I once called the NYPD to alert them to the fact that someone was struggling with a bike lock on W72nd in broad daylight. The person I spoke with pretty much blew me off, asking how was I sure that the person wasn't the owner who just had lost the key. The NYPD never sent anyone by to investigate.

Jun. 02 2009 10:50 AM
marisa from NYC

i always use 2 locks ... and sometimes 3. My feeling is have more locks than the other guy so that my bike will just be too much of a hassle for too little return. I've also tried to make my mid-level bike look really corny.

Jun. 02 2009 10:50 AM
Rosie from nyc

My friend lost the key to her lock. Her bike was chained to a stop sign on the street and in order to remove it we drove our car up next the stop sign and lifted the bike up over the sign... nobody batted an eyelash.

Jun. 02 2009 10:50 AM
Bradd from Manhattan

.... sorry about the bike!!! Grrr theives!
..I always use two locks since I had my bike stolen six years ago. One Kryptonite U-Lock for the front week. One Kryptonite Chain Lock for the frame.

Hope it never happens again!

Jun. 02 2009 10:49 AM
meesh from queens

they need to make removable handlebars so they cant ride away with it.

Jun. 02 2009 10:49 AM
Alison from Brooklyn

I've heard that U locks can be broken with a bic pen. Is this true?

Jun. 02 2009 10:49 AM
Mark from Queens

Tell the people to avoid locking to scaffolding.
So many bikes have been stolen from it's deceptively solid

Jun. 02 2009 10:49 AM
jordana from westchester

use a u-lock! it's the only way.

Jun. 02 2009 10:47 AM
peter from crown heights

Sorry to hear about your bike.

I had my rear wheel stolen from a rack in front of a bike shop once. I walked the wheeless bike into the shop and, instead of sympathy, I was berated for how poorly I secured it.

But I learned.

Jun. 02 2009 10:47 AM
Tom from Upper West Side

The best lock is NO lock...Just don't walk away from your bike - ever!

Jun. 02 2009 10:46 AM
marc from brooklyn

pretty basic. buy a cheap bike and an expensive lock.

Jun. 02 2009 10:46 AM
hjs from 11211

was said bike locked??

Jun. 02 2009 10:13 AM

Not sure what your takeaway would be from from my anecdote bl!

Jun. 02 2009 09:35 AM

On the bright side, I was working as a bike messenger in NYC for what I considered too long. When the bike got stolen, (a great lock cut by a company that just drove a van around the city all day doing this, I learned) I went out and got my first journalism job the next day. Worked out for me.

Jun. 02 2009 09:32 AM
Caitlin from Jersey City

I'd just like to say, this is why I love this show. Brian makes an off-hand comment about his bike getting stolen, someone leaves a comment that there should be a segment about preventing bike theft, and then IT HAPPENS. The very next day! Thanks for being awesome, guys!

Also, it's not just places of employment that are touchy about bikes in their buildings; friends of mine and I have had landlords who freak out if they see you taking a bike into your apartment. It's not a huge deal with my cheap Target bike (emotional attachments aside), but I'd be really upset if it was something I'd actually made a hefty investment in.

Jun. 02 2009 09:15 AM
Marie from Pittsburgh

Jun. 02 2009 08:29 AM
Marie from Pittsburgh

Sorry for your loss Brian.

Having a bike being stolen is difficult. You do something good for your health and environment only to have it taken away. I know that Pittsburgh is moving forward by adding bicycle parking in garages and some offices I have designed have bike rooms. We also don't have as large of a population, so we don't have as much bicycle theft. Is NYC doing anything to thwart theft? Maybe they should have lockers for bicycles in garages, or have buildings allow bicycles in.

Jun. 02 2009 08:25 AM

Hey Brian,

Really sorry to hear about the bike theft, and know exactly what you meant in describing how it affected you.

You sounded surprised by how close you felt to the bike - maybe we Americans come to feel more close to their bikes because it's more dangerous to ride here than in, say, Amsterdam.

I know that I was really surprised at how sad I felt when my cheapest bike was ripped off while I was caring for patients in the hospital. (Ironically, it's quite likely that one of our drug addict patients who had just been discharged walked out onto the street and thought, "hey, that chick in the hospital left me a free bike, too!" before retrieving some chain cutters.) I had so many happy memories of New York that were connected to that bike.

Here in SF we have less building security than in NY, so there are actually a relatively large number of offices that are totally fine with your bringing your bike in. (Unfortunately, that policy wasn't yet operative in our department when my bike was ripped off.) The leniency in offices here might also be because we have fewer cops, more meth/heroin/crack addicts, and thus possibly more bike thefts per capita.

I never reported the theft. It's SF. It felt pointless. I would have reported it in New York.

Jun. 02 2009 03:31 AM

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