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Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 2014

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly five years since we last went traipsing around SoHo grading people’s bike locking with Hal Ruzal from Bicycle Habitat. So it was time for the next chapter with the mechanic who wears pink-purple socks, admonishing you about how to lock your wheels, frame, and seat correctly.

The process is simple: Hal and I spend about an hour walking around, and whatever happens, I try to capture it on the fly. (Which is harder than it sounds.)  This time it led to quite a few surprises and — as usual — many hilarious moments.  Among other things, we learned that Hal has become an international celebrity. And wait until you see the scenes at a Citi Bike station. Let’s just say Hal was impressed.

The previous three Streetfilms in the “Hal Grades Your Bike Locking” series have received at least 300,000 plays.  Here they are for your viewing pleasure.

2003: Hal Grades Your Bike Locking (originally from bikeTV)
2008: Hal & Kerri Grade Your Bike Locking
2009: Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 3: The Final Warning

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Why Does Bike Theft Persist? Because There’s No Enforcement

Here’s some Labor Day weekend reading on one of New York’s vexing problems: bike theft, which, is up 25 percent over last year. As of July, 1,694 bikes were reported stolen this year, according to the NYPD, which encourages bike owners to have their frames etched with identifying codes. Actual thefts are likely much higher than the reported number.

Stolen bikes sold online command higher prices than bikes sold on the street. Image: Priceonomics

Stealing bikes has a relatively low reward compared to other types of theft, yet it remains common. The Priceonomics Blog, run by a company that provides estimates for reselling goods, including bikes, recently looked at why bike theft is so prevalent:

It seems as if stealing bikes shouldn’t be a lucrative form of criminal activity. Used bikes aren’t particularly liquid or in demand compared to other things one could steal (phones, electronics, drugs). And yet, bikes continue to get stolen so they must be generating sufficient income for thieves.

A great number of stolen bikes are resold for cents on the dollar. According to writer Patrick Symmes, who investigated bike theft with the San Francisco Police Department after having his own bicycle stolen, bikes act as one of four forms of “street currency” — the others being cash, sex and drugs. “Of those, only one is routinely left outside unattended,” wrote Symmes.

More advanced thieves resell the bikes for closer to their market value. These bikes often end up on Craigslist, but theft victims have become savvier about keeping an eye out for their wheels online and at flea markets. As a result, these bikes are sometimes shipped and resold in other cities where nobody is looking for them.

Read more…

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Canadian Web TV Producers School Police on How to Catch Bike Thieves

Bike theft in New York City is so famously bad that Kryptonite names their top-of-the-line lock after the Big Apple. Because bike theft generally goes unreported, hard data on just how rampant the problem is can be hard to come by; a 1992 Transportation Alternatives study found that, on average, every cyclist in the city had lost a bike.

Suffice to say, there are probably a lot of New York City cyclists eager to live vicariously through a new web series out of Vancouver, “To Catch A Bike Thief.” In the new series, a team of local cyclists set up a bait bike, equipped with a hidden GPS tracker, then wait with cameras ready to give chase.

“In the game of bike theft, it’s really a constant balance between risk and reward for the bike thief,” explained producer Ingo Lou. “Our goal is to try and tip the scales in favor of cyclists.” The inspiration for the series, of course, was Lou’s own bike getting stolen, his fourth.

In the process of making the series, Lou said that his team is already discovering how bike theft really works in Vancouver — where stolen bikes go and who buys them afterward — as well as effective anti-theft techniques and products. For cyclists who want to recreate the GPS tracking strategy at home, for example, Lou recommended the Spylamp, which hides a tracker in a rear light.

Most importantly, though, Lou hopes to put bike theft on the radar as a problem that can actually be confronted. “There’s a perception that nothing can be done, so no one reports thefts to the police, so the police don’t care,” said Lou. “Law enforcement, they’re very reactionary. They respond to statistics.”

Lou wouldn’t reveal whether the show actually catches a bike thief; to find that out, you’ll have to watch the first episode yourself come April. In the meantime, bike locking guru Hal Ruzal is always on hand to offer a refresher in how to keep your bike safe on New York City streets.

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Theft and Vandalism Just Not a Problem For American Bike-Sharing

Minneapolis' bike-share system has only had __ stolen bike, but it's not just because they're Minnesota nice. Theft and vandalism haven't been a problem for American bike-sharing systems. Photo: __.

Minneapolis's bike-share system has only had two stolen bikes, and not just because people there are Minnesota nice. Theft and vandalism haven't been a problem for any American bike-sharing system. Photo: Kevin Jack via Flickr.

Even as bike-sharing spreads across the United States, it remains dogged by one persistent doubt. Critics, and even some boosters, fear that the bikes will be routinely stolen and vandalized. It’s time to stop worrying about crime, however. In America’s new bike-sharing systems, there have been essentially no such problems.

Fears that public bikes will be abused can be traced to Paris’s Vélib system, which while wildly popular has struggled with high levels of theft and vandalism. Take Michael Grynbaum’s write-up last week of New York City’s bike-share plans in the Times, where crime is portrayed as the only downside:

In Paris, the pioneer of bike-sharing, the bikes are used up to 150,000 times a day. But there has also been widespread theft and vandalism; bicycles have ended up tossed in the Seine, dangling from lampposts and shipped off to northern Africa for illegal sale.

The scenes of Vélib bike abuse replicate descriptions widely circulated in a 2009 BBC story about the system’s troubles. The problems with Vélib are real, if overhyped by the media. In 2009, JCDecaux, the advertising agency that runs Vélib, estimated that over 8,000 bikes were stolen and another 8,000 rendered unrideable and irreparable. It was a problem that had to be addressed.

Luckily for the rest of the world, it seems to have been an easy fix for other cities. Many now believe that the locking mechanism at Vélib’s stations was poorly designed. Systems that use a different method have successfully controlled theft to the point where the cost is negligible.

Vélib bikes lock on the side of the frame, as seen here. Other operators, including ClearChannel, B-cycle and the Public Bike System, have had dramatically lower rates of theft and use a different locking method, explained Bill Dossett, who runs Minneapolis’s new NiceRide bike-sharing system. “The ClearChannel systems had the locking mechanism built into the headset,” where the handlebars meet the bicycle frame, “and just has never had the same problems,” he said.

For example, Barcelona’s Bicing system, run by ClearChannel, has had about one-fifth the rate of stolen public bikes as Vélib, despite higher theft rates citywide, according to the New York Department of City Planning.

Stateside, the problems with crime have been smaller still.

Read more…

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East Village Bike Shop Manager Speaks on NYPD Bust

Yesterday we reported that police have shut down the Busy Bee bike shop in the East Village for criminal possession of stolen property. In a phone call with Streetsblog last night, store manager Joe Malewich said he's not sure what his staff could have done to prevent the three arrests which resulted in the store's closure.

Officers from the Ninth Precinct first came to Busy Bee in June of 2008 to buy bikes which they said would be used in special operations targeting bike theft, Malewich told Streetsblog. "They bought two bikes for $350, and we donated two bikes, so they got four bikes for $350, and they wrote us a check," he explained. "Then strange things started happening quite a while later."

Undercover officers started dropping by the store in October 2009, attempting to sell back the same bikes the precinct purchased. Store workers bought back the bikes, Malewich said, unaware of what had happened fourteen months prior.

According to Malewich, the NYPD affidavit states that undercover officers made it clear to Busy Bee employees that they were trying to unload stolen bikes, an assertion that he disputes. "What bike shop employee would say, 'Oh, okay, I'll buy the bike you just clearly described to me as stolen'?" he asked.

Since October 2009, three of Malewich's employees have been arrested for buying bikes from undercover officers. Two have since been cleared in court, Malewich said, but a third, arrested last Friday, still has a court date coming up.

Read more...
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Police Shut Down Bike Shop Suspected of Selling Stolen Property

busy_bee_340.jpgThe Busy Bee bike shop has been shut down for criminal possession of stolen property. Photo: Jack Savage.
Are police starting to take bike theft seriously? In the East Village, officers with NYPD's Civil Enforcement Unit have shut down a bike shop on East 6th Street as the result of what one officer characterized as an ongoing undercover investigation.

Busy Bee Bikes, a familiar destination for local cyclists, was forced to close its doors last Friday for criminal possession of stolen property, according to Lt. Patrick Ferguson of the Ninth Precinct.

One Busy Bee employee was arrested at the store that day after purchasing stolen property from an undercover officer, Ferguson said, adding that the owners of Busy Bee will appear in civil court on Wednesday. We are awaiting further information from the police on how they determined that the shop intentionally dealt in stolen goods. We also have a request in with the Manhattan DA's office on the charges facing the store employees.

Ferguson told Streetsblog that another Busy Bee employee was arrested at the store last month, also for criminal possession of stolen property. A business will usually face closure by the city following two such arrests on the business's property, according to David Duhan, an attorney who specializes in civil enforcement cases.

Friday's arrest capped an ongoing investigation spearheaded by the NYPD's Ninth Precinct, Ferguson said. The operation had been in progress for months, first coming to Streetsblog's attention at a Ninth Precinct community council meeting in January, where police stressed the usefulness of having one's bicycle registered with the local precinct. NYPD serial numbers can help police recover bike frames lost to theft.

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Community Councils: Your Chance to Put Street Safety on NYPD’s Agenda

How many motorists, hurtling down city streets at deadly speeds, have prompted you to ask, "Why is this allowed?" When bikes gets stolen, again and again, do you wonder why there isn't a system in place to discourage theft? How come no one ever seems to get a ticket for running a red light?

ninth_precinct.jpgPhoto: Wikipedia.

Thinking about street safety and traffic enforcement in New York City can get frustrating in a hurry, but there's a good way to bring these types of concerns to NYPD's attention: attend community council meetings, ready to ask questions. These are public meetings that every precinct in the city holds every month. Earlier this week, I went to one for the first time -- at my local precinct, the Ninth, in the East Village -- and it dawned on me that many more New Yorkers should be attending these crucial functions.

Here's a quick overview of what community council meetings are like, what happened at the first one I attended, and what to expect if you start going to meetings at your precinct.

What Do Community Council Meetings Have to Do With Livable Streets?

Reckless drivers are a constant threat in my neighborhood, and I wanted to learn how police were dealing with this important issue of public safety. Since red light cameras have been shown to reduce violent crashes at intersections, I asked if the Ninth Precinct would be assigned a camera at the intersection of East Houston and Avenue A, ranked one of New York's most dangerous.

Read more...
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Banned From Bringing Your Bike to Work? The Law’s on Your Side Now

bikes_buildings.jpgImage: NYCDOT

Today is a historic day for bicycling in New York City. Local Law 52, a.k.a. the Bikes in Buildings Law, took effect. People all over the city are talking to their bosses about bringing their bikes inside the workplace. And lots of those bosses will be talking to building managers about how to make bike access happen.

One of the biggest obstacles to bike commuting -- fear of theft -- is in the process of being surmounted. It won't happen overnight, but it never would have happened at all without many years of relentless work by Transportation Alternatives and strong support this time around from the mayor's office, City Council, and DOT.

Sure, there are gaps in the law -- like the fact that commercial buildings without freight elevators are exempt. But bike advocates went toe to toe with the real estate lobby and came out on top. As former TA director John Kaehny told us back when the law passed the City Council, a legislative victory like that matters for many reasons: "More than anything else, it validates bicycles as legitimate."

So a little celebration might be in order, and, if you're currently banned from bringing your bike inside, a little research too. Start with DOT's bikes in buildings page. You might also want to tune in to NY1 at 9:00 tonight. TA's Wiley Norvell will be fielding calls about the new law.

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Eyes on the Street: Columbia on the Lookout for Bike Thieves

columbiagrab.jpg

Streetsblog regular Glenn McAnanama sent in a flier from Columbia University police [PDF] alerting faculty, staff and students to a recent bike theft.

Video stills like the one at right appear to show a man -- pictured more clearly on the flier -- walking away with a bike after removing the front wheel. (Hal would probably give that lock job an "F.")

This is not a huge deal, but as Glenn points out, it's nice to see campus security treating bike theft as an actual crime worthy of its attention. "This is the second one of these [fliers] I've seen in as many weeks," he writes. "Imagine if NYPD were this concerned."

Of course, prevalence of bike theft also raises the issue of secure parking, or lack thereof, on campus. Any Columbia-affiliated folks care to weigh in?

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Movement on Bicycle Access Bill: New Version Appears in City Council

A new version of the Bicycle Access Bill has been placed on legislators' desks at City Hall, indicating that votes in the Transportation Committee and the full City Council are likely later this month, according to multiple sources tracking the bill's progress.

The revised bill, which would require building managers to provide bicycle access to tenants who request it, divvies up responsibility for enforcement between DOT and the Department of Buildings differently than previous versions, Streetsblog has learned. Core provisions intended to expand bicycle access to buildings remain unchanged.

The bill, now supported by 35 co-sponsors, would come up for a vote at the council's next stated meeting,  scheduled for Wednesday, July 29.

The last time we checked in on the Bicycle Access Bill, it was still sitting in John Liu's Transportation Committee after other legislators, including sponsor David Yassky and 31 additional supporters in the City Council, had expected it to reach the full floor for a vote. Then came an outpouring of e-faxes from cyclists asking Liu to get behind the bill.

Today, a number of people have forwarded us an invitation from Liu's office to hear him explain his position this Friday. Read it after the jump.

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