“When my shift was ended, I found another bike (a gray Fuji Silhouette) locked to mine”

stolen bike

Is this a common tactic? Keep your eyes peeled for this one if you can.

“Dear PoPville,

Basically, my bike got stolen and I’d love to get it back, if possible.

I work a part time job at The Coupe on the weekends. On Sunday, I biked to The Coupe to start my shift. The bike rack was full, so I locked (using a U Lock) my bike to the northeast stop sign of Monroe and Park Rd, across the street from The Coupe. When my shift was ended, I found another bike (a gray Fuji Silhouette) locked to mine. I checked, and the Fuji didn’t belong to anyone at The Coupe, so I decided to walk home, hoping that the owner would unlock their bike by the next day.

I worked all day Monday at my full-time job, and returned to Monroe and Park to check on my bike only to find it gone. There was no sign of my bike or the gray Fuji or either bike lock. I filed a police report and registered my stolen bike on bikeindex.org.”

48 Comment

  • Common tactic. Would-be thief locks his bike up to another, hoping that the owner of the other bike thinks someone made a mistake and leaves, hoping it will be unlocked the next day. Thief then returns and steals bike in the middle of the night.

    You you ever find another bike locked to you, of course make an effort to locate the bike’s owner but if that’s unsuccessful, call the cops!

    • +1 Thanks for posting this, maybe it will help someone in the future!

    • I don’t understand how this works. If you keep your lock on the bike attached to the pole, how do they steal it?

      And why would you ever remove your lock if your bike is locked to another bike?

      • You do not remove your lock, and the perpetrators come back to steal the bike they selected at a later time when detection is much less likely

      • Locks can be cut with the proper tools and enough time.

        • Actually, I was surprised to witness how little time it takes with bolt cutters. It’s literally like your lock is made of tootsie rolls as the bolt cutter easily slices through the metal lock.

      • gotryit

        It looks from this picture that it’s a basic street sign that it’s locked to. The sign can usually be unbolted with normal tools, then the bikes lifted over the top. That probably wouldn’t attract too much attention at 2am, for example.

    • I imagine this is doubly true when you have an expensive bike (trek) and the bike that’s locked to yours is a much cheaper one (Fuji).

    • …Or is it that they cut your lock in the middle of the night? Sorry, I’m new to this tactic.

    • So, what would the police do in this situation? I presume you first need to prove you own the hostage bike, but then will they remove the lock? I wouldn’t trust the police to use the situation to set up a sting.

    • And if you call MPD, they will do…. what? I’m wondering if they will say they can’t interfere, and there’s no way you can prove it is a mistake and not a deliberate way to steal (therefore, they can’t cut the lock because that would leave an innocent person’s bike unlocked). Can they cut someone else’s lock without their permission? This tactic actually seems unbeatable. By the time the night has passed, your nice roadbike is gone. What am I missing? I can’t imagine MPD being able to help with this…
      Sorry to the guy who had his bike stolen. It’s sad to think someone was just trying to get to work and make a little money, and this happens. Ugh.

  • Yup. Super common. Prevent the person from taking their bike, come back at a convenient time to harvest it. If you see another bike lock to yours figure out a way to retrieve it immediately.

  • Disturbing. But if it’s happening as a technique for theft, why not just unlock your bike, and walk two bikes home, or straight to the hardware store to rent a diamond saw?

  • If you find this call the cops? What will they do? Stakeout the bike? Cut the offending lock for you? My bet is laugh and walk away. I only see two options here. Go buy a real good chain and lock and double lock your bike or go get a sawzall and cut the bike of the person who did this. That would rarely happen by mistake.

  • It would never have occurred to me at the time, but if this happens to me and the second bike (like the one pictured here) is only locked to my bike and nothing else, I might just unlock my bike and walk it home if that was close enough to be feasible. And leave a note with my phone number.

    I have once accidentally locked my bike to someone else’s but it was only for about 15 mins and I was also locked to a sign (I accidentally looped through their U-lock). In that case it seems more likely to be a legitimate oversight than one someone locks their bike to nothing but yours.

    • This is a good solution. I probably wouldn’t leave my phone number, though. I would set up a single-use email so didn’t end up getting stalked on my phone by a criminal.

  • so the better move would be to unlock your bike from the pole and take both bikes with you?

  • Yeah I mean this is clearly done with the intention of stealing. So what would the police *actually* do in this case if you call them? Has anyone called the police in a situation like this?

    I’m trying hard not to feel jaded, but I don’t feel like their response would be super helpful for the owner of the bike that’s going to be stolen.

    • Ideally? Cut the other bike off and keep it. Someone could potentially claim it. I find it no different then turning in a lost wallet to the police (which I have done before).

      OP: Sorry! That blows. Looks like a nice ride too. Begin checking craigslist and I’ll try to keep an eye out as I live in the area. That bike looks very distinctive.

    • Well, my thought was you call the cops as you’re unlocking your bike so they can document what happened, and leave the cop your number so if this was a “real” accident (locking their bike to yours), then the mistaken owner would contact the cops and they could get a hold of you.

      But that is complex – i’d contact the cops just to let them know what I am doing, so that there is no question what you intent was.

  • If someone was truly trying to steal the bike…why wouldn’t they just lock your bike to the sign with an additional lock? That way, even if you removed your lock, your bike would still be locked to the sign with their lock. You had the option to make off with your bike AND their bike the way it was done originally. Seems like an odd way to attempt a simpler crime…

    • The Fuji was likely a stolen bike to begin with, so no cost to the thief. And whatever the thief could have made selling the lesser thief, he stands to gain much more in stealing that sweet Trek bike. Locking a bike to another bike will cause enough concern from the original biker to think it was an innocent mistake and not act on it until much later (when the bike has already been dismantled or stolen). It’s a devious tactic and one I was not aware of until today.

  • Welcome to city life. This is a clever trick going back forever and got me once years ago as well. I could’ve written OP’s exact letter way back then too. Fool me once, yada, yada…if this happened present-day and the Trek bike was mine, I’m now the owner of both a Trek and a Fuji bike. And I would walk them both home as soon as I found them locked together without a second thought.

  • I was curious about why the would be thief did not also attach his or her bike to the post. If you lock your bike to another one, you create the possibility for the owner of the other bike to walk off with yours – which is what I would have done if someone had attached another bike to mine. But then I figured that if the second bike is not attached to the pole, the owner of the first bike might assume that the second bike was locked to his or her bike accidentally, and then do what this owner did – leave the bike unattended for a long enough period of time to allow the thief to take it.

  • DC1

    This happened to me once. I called the cops, when they showed up and verified that it was my bike being held hostage (common practice to later steal it) they told me to go find tools or hire someone to cut the other persons lock. They waited there until I went home and retrieved my angle grinder and cut the lock. Not sure what they did with the other bike, but I overheard the radio conversation and they said to take it to the police station.

    • Great to hear that the cops stayed there to protect your bike! I would have figured they’d have left as soon as they’d told you what to do.

  • This is common and is called “linking.” Thieves lock bikes together to prevent them from moving and then later come back at night to cut the lock and steal them. I lost a bike this way.

  • This happened to Carrie like, three times during the last season of Homeland.

  • Just saw 12-15 young wannabe-dirtbike kids popping wheelies through redlights on high end Trek, Canondale, and Specialized bikes. I’m sure they bought all of them at the dealerships.

  • mersadaisy

    DC bike law: Section 1209.1: “A person may secure a bicycle to a stanchion for a period of not more than twelve (12) consecutive hours, by means of a lock or similar device.”

    Maybe the city snagged it before you came back to check.

    • The “thief linking” scenario seems more likely. On P St by WF, there was a rotting bike with a kid/dog carrier chained to a pole for months. There were even multiple city stickers on it warning of removal by a certain date a couple weeks out. Some say it’s still there to this day.

  • Came her to comment that everyone should stop locking their bikes to things just through the frame. Lock the front wheel (and back if you can) to the frame and then to whatever you hope can’t be removed by a thief.

    Sorry about your trek. Sucks. I’ll call the cops if I see a kid doing wheelies on it on H.

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