“So, word to the wise, from one cyclist to another: don’t leave your bike outside overnight no matter which neighborhood you’re in”

Photo by PoPville flickr user AWard Tour

“Dear PoPville,

Stolen bike: recovered. Stolen again.

I bought an older model grey Schwinn Moab secondhand about 2 years ago.

It was stolen from the corner of Euclid & Ontario NW in September.

The next day I recovered it at 14/T NW across from Saint-Ex.

A guy had it chained to a stop sign & I confronted him about it (probably not the best idea). Anyway, he willingly handed it over after I threatened to call the cops.

Between 12pm Oct. 15th and 12pm Oct. 16th it was stolen again. This time from the corner of 15/N NW.

Of course, by this point I realize it’s my own dumb fault for having faith in humanity I could leave a bike outside overnight.

However, I wanted to relay my experience with the MPD.

Shortly after it happened I was able to flag down an officer and ask him how to report a stolen bike.

(The bike probably isn’t worth much, but I use it everyday to commute.)

The officer informed me I could go to the nearest police station (in this case, 14/U) and file a report.

But “without a serial number, it [the report] is just gonna get thrown in the trash.”

So, word to the wise, from one cyclist to another: don’t leave your bike outside overnight no matter which neighborhood you’re in.

And write down your bike’s serial number if you (theoretically) want the MPD to take your case seriously.

Best of luck,
Your Adams Morgan neighbor”

Update – of course the bike was locked.


51 Comment

  • I rode my nicest bike to a friend’s party in Palisades, address: Macarthur Blvd. Locked, but to nothing, leaning against front of house. It was there well after dark. Not stolen.

    • Really? Really? You’re going to compare Palisades (zero foot traffic) to Adams Morgan?
      I’m sure I could leave my nice bike unlocked in the backyard of my friend’s house in AU Park. But I wouldn’t do that in my own backyard in Columbia Heights. Duh.

      • yes MacArthur Blvd is not Columbia Heights but there is plenty of foot traffic.

        • Zero public housing on MacArthur boulevard… Hence, no risk of having bike stolen.

          • Well, aren’t you clever! Let’s talk financial bail-outs over tea sometime!

          • 11:49,
            you think there’s nothing of substance in the comment?
            look at hot pockets of crime in DC. what is your expert opinion on why the pockets are located where they are?

            so anon 5:35 made a simplistic comment? hard to gauge how some really feels based on 1 sentence blog comments.

          • There’s no public housing near H St NE either, but plenty of drunken hipsters are getting jacked on their way back to their fixies.

    • palisades

      *sheds tear*

      That’s my neighborhood

    • Those are some serious jaws that can exert enough crushing pressure to break that kryto lock open… the hydraulic jacks push them apart. I’ve seen most thieves just using portable angle grinders (sadly not even the NY kryto lock is immune to that). This is a new method… probably quicker and quieter too.

      Thieves suck. No quiet neighborhoods are immune from anything, even the palisades. I had my motorcycle stolen about a year back.

  • You can get an older model Moab for about $225 on craigslist right now. It doesn’t look to be in v. good shape though.

  • Is there any such thing as a reliable way to lock up a bike that minimizes the likelihood of it being stolen? Are the bikes that get stolen the ones with cheap, easy to remove locks? Or is any lock removable given enough time to do so? Are there certain places that are easier to remove bikes from?

  • I am not a biker. But I think that, rather than a warning to never leave your bike unattended, most bikers would appreciate advice on the best (and worst) ways to lock up a bike. Are the bikes that get stolen most the easy pickings – cheap, easy to remove locks; locked to something from which it is easy to remove a bike? Is there a particular lock or method that is most effective at preventing theft?

  • dude, this is entry-level and hard to take seriously.

    for those concerned about your ride, obviously don’t leave outside overnight, but more importantly, invest in a legit lock (eg, new yorker by kryptonite) – worth the money spent.


  • The writer says nothing about whether the bike was locked up or not. If it was locked up, how? Bike theft isn’t new – it has been rampant the two decades I’ve lived here – and avoiding a theft requires a certain amount of common-sense vigilance about where, how long and whether the right lock setup was used, etc.

  • I cannot figure out why SO many people have their own bikes here. Capital Bikeshare is $75 for an ENTIRE YEAR and they are everywhere. I can walk up to one of the HUNDREDS of stations, grab a bike, ride it to pretty close to where I need to go (if not right by it). There’s ZERO liability, ZERO risk. $75 a year is nothing. Even if you buy a cheap bike from Craigslist (that was probably previously stolen from someone else) it couldn’t be cheaper. Granted, not everyone can use CB because it doesn’t go everywhere…but it still baffles me that so many prefer to have their own.

    • Because some people want nice bikes? And would like to use it as soon as they leave their house and not walk four blocks or more to find a citybike. You really don’t understand this?

    • A couple of things:
      Capital Bikeshare is (relatively) new. People who have been in D.C. for a while may well have purchased bikes before its advent.
      I hear that many docking stations empty out relatively early during rush hour, meaning that bicycle commuters can’t count on them for commuting.
      Being able to get TO your actual destination — rather than just close to it — makes a difference, both in terms of time and other considerations (distance spent walking alone late at night, etc.).
      I don’t have a bicycle or bikeshare membership, but I can understand why many people think the latter is not a substitute for the former.

    • Bikes are a joy to ride and, really, how much joy can you derive from a rental.

    • first of all the bikeshare stations are either completely full when you are trying to return a bike or completely empty when you are trying to get a bike so there is already an issue with that statement. also some people are really into bikes and use their bike for different things such as trail riding or racing and you can obviously not do that with a bikeshare bike. also those bikes are SO heavy and bulky they are awkward to ride. i personally bought my own bike for those reasons.

      also i’m not entirely sure why anyone leaves their bikes out overnight, i always bring mine into my apartment, granted i spent a small fortune on it and treat it as my firstborn. i think you should try to make space for it in your apartment because that is obviously the safest. i am even nervous when i leave it outside grocery shopping for an hour or so and usually bring two locks with me for extra security.

      • +1
        I am exactly the same way. I never go anywhere without double locking the frame and wheels, and still feel nervous leaving it outside for any period of time

    • hahahah WHO are you? Duh, you will probably never understand…

      this is easy, people. get a solid U-lock (krpytonite) and pair that up with a cable lock. Hell krptonite even gives instructions on their packaging. Use the cable lock to lock your wheels together and run it through the U-Lock which is locked to the frame. I leave my Cannondale all over the city, never been touched. You just have to be smarter than to leave a bike locked up overnight anywhere.

      • I’d recommend the Sheldon Brown method of locking up, where the u-lock goes through the rear wheel in the frame’s triangle. Then you use a cable (okay) or another U-lock (better) for the front tire.

    • i agree with textdoc. it is rather difficult to work around the capacity at different times of the bike stations and they are also not as flexible as owning your own bike. obviously you are not a bike owner either because you would realize how bulky and unreliable those bikes are.

    • Eek. Have you ever ridden a bikeshare bike? There’s a world of difference. I have my own because my road bike which I researched for months and saved up for even longer fits me perfectly, weighs enough to carry with one hand, goes fast when I need it to, and I use it for other reasons other than commuting (try doing sprints on one of those behemoths- gah!). I also consider myself lucky that I can store it in my apartment and at work. I don’t really see why you’re surprised by bike ownership. It’s awesome not to have to rely on a rental. While I think CBS is fantastic for those without bikes, I’m really glad I have my own.

      That said, I would NEVER leave it anywhere unlocked. I saved for too long and I love it too much to even risk it getting stolen. Doesn’t mean it won’t, but I do what I can and cross my fingers whenever I have to leave it out.

    • Bikesahre stands are not everywhere. I live 11 minute walk from Dupont metro, but in a total bikeshare desert – that is my closest station, but also the place I would most like to bike to/from.
      Even if you live near a station, that is no guarantee you will find a bike there (see the weekly laments of posters on this blog).
      Bikeshare bikes are not a good option if you want to go on a long bike ride, both because of the cost and the comfort.
      I am the biggest bikeshare booster there is, but I also have my own bike. I don’t see owning/sharing as substitutes for each other, but as supplements that serve very different needs.

      • Agreed. Bikeshare was my gateway drug. I decided to purchase a bike after having bikeshare for a little over a year. I’m three blocks from the nearest station, but it’s usually in the opposite direction I need to go. I still use bikeshare fairly often, they just serve different purposes.

    • I’m an annual bikeshare member and ride my personal bike, generally, every day of the week. Fill completely different needs.

    • You should probably read the fine print or actually ride a Bikeshare bike before making assumptions.

      The renter is liable for EVERYTHING, including the bike. Also, from my understanding of said fine print, not only is there a membership fee (there are several options for those), you can only have the bike out for 30 minutes before extra costs come into play. So on top of the, say, $75 annual membership, if you need to ride more than 30 minutes to your destination, you end up paying more. And in DC traffic, 30 minutes doesn’t get you too far.

      • Accountering

        Seriously? I can get most anywhere in the city in 30 minutes on a CaBi. Where are you taking this thing? Alexandria?

        • Adams Morgan to H Street would definitely be 30 min or more on a Bikeshare. Even longer to Capitol Hill proper.

        • With my short legs? Yeah! The point was that not all commutes are quick jaunts through the city, and that the OP wasn’t taking the fine print into consideration. And I sometimes commute from H St NE to Van Ness which would be pointless on a CaBi.

          • The bikeshare person actually told me when I created my membership that if you are ever to ride more than 30 minutes just to go to a dock, dock it, and then re-check it out….you won’t be charged a dime. That’s not fine print, but eliminates that argument.

    • A couple of things:
      Capital Bikeshare is (relatively) new. People who have been in D.C. for a while may well have purchased bikes before its advent.
      I hear that many docking stations empty out relatively early during rush hour, meaning that bicycle commuters can’t count on them for commuting.
      Being able to get TO your actual destination — rather than just close to it — makes a difference, both in terms of time and other considerations (distance spent walking alone late at night, etc.).
      I don’t have a bicycle or a Bikeshare membership, but I can understand why many people think the latter is not a substitute for the former.

      • Oops, sorry for the double-posting. I was attempting to post before a meeting and kept getting “502 Bad Gateway” error messages, so I then tried again after the meeting.

    • “Because there is an alternative, it must be better”. WHAT?!? I see that you love all caps, but “CB” is a really problematic system for anyone that wants to legitimately travel by bicycle. #1 – It’s expensive. It starts at $75 a year for the membership. You can easily find a used bike for less than $200, ride it for 3+ years with less than $100 of maintenance, and then sell it again for $200. #2 – Problems with bike availability and docking availability already mentioned. #3 You look like a jerk or an idiot. Many people riding ‘CB’ ride like jerks – all over the road, all over the sidewalk, sometimes drunk, often ringing their bell to demand the right of way in pedestrian areas. #4 Not convenient. I can park in front or near the address I want to go to (just like a car) – not two blocks away. #5 Not safe. A good number of ‘CB’ stations require you to unload into the roadway. While I think ‘on road’ bike parking is good, I think it’s dangerous to have to fiddle with these docking stations while trying to yank the bike out of the machine directly into traffic. #6 Only Three gears. If you are riding everywhere, this gets old fast, and it’s also dangerous because it is difficult to maintain proper velocity. Also it’s not great for your knees. ### I could go on forever. ‘CB’ is nice for tourists, but you wouldn’t want to ride one every day if you had access to a private bicycle….

    • some people remain baffled their whole lives. it’s okay.

    • There is no bikeshare dock anywhere near my house or where I work, and they are both within DC.

  • I love Capital Bikeshare but they are NOT everwhere. Not even close. And it’s not reliable enough to be the only means of transportation– docks in my neighborhood are empty 8 am every morning, so you can’t use them for commuting every day. And then there’s the question of ride quality: I probably bike something like 70 miles per week. If you are a serious biker the Capital Bikeshare is going to take twice the time (at least) and take twice the effort of a decent road bike.

    Like I said, bikeshare is awesome– but your post has practically zero nuance and leads me to believe that you either aren’t a very serious biker or that you live in a very small bubble of work and professional outings.

  • Holy crap- how’d they do that to the U-lock? How did bending it like that cause it to unlock?

  • from what i’ve heard, keeping your bike secure is about making it more time consuming to steal than the other bikes. If you leave it by itself anywhere at any time, you are making it a target. Always lock it up in a pack and hope the other bikers are recent transplants from the rural midwest

    • Also, put the straight bar on the bike side and the U around rack or pole, so it is harder to use a crow bar or similar for leverage to break the lock.

  • I try not to lock my bike overnight anywhere as well. I had to however when I bailed on it and had to go to the ER. Luckily, it was still there intact the next morning (Penn Quarter). That said, invest in the best locks you can. That is not something you should skimp on. No lock is unbreakable but it is about causing the thief to spend too much time cracking it to bother.

    I use the modified Sheldon Brown method with one u-lock. You should also have a u-lock that is as small as you can get it and still fit around that rear tire/frame. More space allows the thief more leverage to pop it open. I also have a thick cable to secure the front tire to the same u-lock. At worst, the thief has big ass wire cutters and gets a front tire that takes $60 to replace. But really, to get the whole bike, thief now needs two different tools to steal my bike.

    Also invest in anti-theft skewers of some sort. Again, not impregnable but slows down a thief. If you have a nice saddle, might want to think about a seat lock too. However, I’ve just poured wax into the retaining bolt head which makes it difficult to get a tool in there without spending a ton of time digging out the wax.

    And finally, make sure anything else that isn’t bolted on walks off with you if you do have to leave it overnight. In the past, I’ve had lights, bells, whatever else walk off.

  • Yikes…. that’s the exact same kind of bike lock I have.

    • Yeah, I think it’d be helpful if more people were informed about what sort of locks are easily defeated and how thieves use tools to defeat them.

      I see a lot about using jacks to defeat U-locks and how you should position the U-lock to prevent this, but I don’t really understand how they use the jack to do it.

      • you know how a jack has the strength to separate a car from the ground, thats the same strength it utilizes to separate one part of the curve of the lock from the other side of the lock.

        the photo shows a lock that has been drawn together, rather than separated.

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