An Unfortunate New Series: Have You Seen My Stolen Bike?

by Prince Of Petworth November 15, 2011 at 9:30 am 56 Comments

Ed. Note: It amazes and saddens me how many emails I get every month about stolen bikes. It is very rare that bikes are reunited with owners but perhaps there is some therapeutic value in posting. Also, I hope it is a good reminder to be super vigilant about always locking up your bikes. Perhaps some folks will recognize these bikes – if so please leave a note in the comments where you may have seen it.

If you’re bike has been stolen send an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail with Stolen Bike in the subject line. Please include the location where it was stolen and let me know if you’d like me to include your email address with the post.

For the bike above:

“Custom made bike was stolen from outside of the Starbucks on 14th St. (Columbia Heights?) Attached to this email is a picture of the bike, since it was put together from scratch it is very distinctive”

“My wife’s wheels just got stolen, and we hope your readers can help us find them. The bike, a cream-colored Abici Donna (like the one shown in the photo, except with a wicker basket in front), was my anniversary present to her, and she uses it for her commute and all kinds of errands. Any tips will be much appreciated by us both.”

  • me

    Re: that first bike, I swear I saw a kid riding it on V St between 13th and 14th earlier. I remember because it’s a distinctive bike. Looked to be about 16 or so, with dreads. Black hoodie. If I see it again, I will try to call 911.

  • Justin Seymour

    Try using two different styles of locks (chain & u-lock). Nothing is theft-proof but this is a much better locking method than what I normally see. Insert the chain through a wheel and the frame (chain, not those cheap easy to cut cable locks). The u-lock should go through the other wheel and the frame. The drawback is, other than carrying two locks, you normally must lock your bike to an upside down u parking device.

    What I appreciate about the folks in DC is that they are more likely to say something to a bike thief than in NYC, London, or Philly. Please continue to yell at a thief and call the police.

  • steve

    why does it amaze you? this city is filled with petty thieves, most of them teenagers who know that

    1 – police don’t care about bike thefts
    2 – if they are somehow caught, the penalties are a joke

    • mphs

      Sure, there are kids stealing bikes, but there are also a lot of adults doing it, and some seem pretty sophisticated. I’d really like the police to do a sting and track down some of the pro’s.

      • Anon

        Even if the police catch the bike thieves red-handed, they just let them go: http://bit.ly/v1CxaC

        • We haven’t had any problems at New York Avenue since then, though. I’d like to think the kid had the fear of God drilled into him a bit.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    In addition to information about the bike, the poster on this forum should provide information about how it was locked up. I think it might be useful for the community to know whether some bike locking methods or locations are ineffective.

    • Equality

      Absolutely agree. I would also like to know how long it was left at the spot before noticing it was stolen. I recently purchased my first bike for more money than I’d like to admit, but based on this blog and the comments, it just isn’t safe to lock anywhere for any amount of time no matter what lock you use.

    • fz


      • Justin

        i locked it with a u lock through the frame and front tire on an upside down U right in front of starbucks. its a slightly older u lock but unless i somehow didnt lock it properly (which i really doubt) they mustve been able to smash it open. didnt see the lock laying around the scene. i no doubt left it too long, which i rarely do, but was late for work, bla bla bla. it was there from aprox 5:30, a friend saw it still locked up at 6, and someone on this site said they saw a kid with it at 7:30. i didnt get back and notice it was gone till 10:00.

        • otingokni

          oddly enough, I think I saw this bike more in front of the Chipotle yesterday than the Starbucks around 6 or 6:15. I dont remember the handlebars or the wheels, but I definitely remember the frame. I parked my bike in the same section a couple of spaces down. I did notice one of the other bikes in that rack had a u-lock that wasnt fully locked. I dont know if it was broken or poorly locked or if it was even this bike’s lock but it definitely wasnt secured when i saw it. Sorry for your loss and I hope you get it back

    • Anon


  • Anon

    While this didn’t happen to me, a friend claimed he was riding through Adams Morgan one day when a guy stopped in traffic next to him. As he described him, he was pretty young and riding a really hi-end bike with clips (while wearing street shoes) and outfitted with all sorts of racing stuff. When my friend complimented the bike, the kid looked straight ahead and muttered “Fifty and you can have it.” My friend said he wasn’t interested and concluded the bike was stolen, but before he could figure out what to do the kid was gone. I’ve always wondered if I was in a similar situation if it might not just be worth it to “buy” the bike, and return it to the police in case someone has reported it stolen. Obviously buying stolen property is against the law, but I wonder if there’s some sort of good samaritan loophole.

  • jm

    serious question, have these posts ever had any success?

    I kinda figured any bike that got ripped off would just get sent to bmore or something, but maybe they do stick around?

    and on a related note I was just last night thinking about how improbable it is that I’ve been riding for years and never had a bike stolen. tiny u-locks ftw, I guess. or maybe luck ftw?

  • andy

    how cheap is the cheapest decent bike that can be purchased? It almost seems like treating your bike as disposable is the only way to not ending up with a sad situation.

    Bike thieves just seem amazingly capable at their jobs. Bike thieves need to be arrested and diverted into engineering programs or something. Because it seems they can solve any bike lock that ever existed.

  • Anonymous

    On Wednesday, November 2nd, I was walking by the Columbia Heights shopping center at around 5:30pm when I saw a young boy (maybe 8 years old) hacking away at a bike lock with a hammer. I told the boy to stop and threatened to find a police officer, to which he replied that there are never any cops in the area at that time. And he was right—not an officer or cop car to be found! I then looked around and saw at least five kids clustered around the other bike racks using the same strategy for breaking locks. I was irate.

    I continued walking home and eventually found nine officers gathered around an intoxicated man in front of Wonderland Ballroom on the corner of 11th and Kenyon. When I reported the incident, one officer said that the DC police force has bigger issues than bike theft. He then warned that as a white female living in Columbia Heights, I should consider myself “prey” and expect things like that to happen, especially with the holiday season approaching. I took his business card and plan to issue a complaint against his careless attitude.

    • dreas

      We confronted a bunch of kids under the age of 12 several weeks ago in front of Acre 121. One of the littlest kids–maybe 7 or 8?–had a socket wrench that he appeared to have just stolen from Target. They were scoping out all the bikes, so my husband walked over and asked them a bunch of questions; they were completely not bothered by him and ended up swiping a wheel from one bike during the few minutes we’d stopped paying attention. I posted about it on here and someone else posted that they’d seen a group of kids around the same time of day walking toward Mt. Pleasant carrying a bike wheel. I would bet you anything it’s the same group of kids you saw.

      Stuff like this infuriates me.

    • anon

      Wow. Kudos to you for being civic-minded, and boo to the officer and his dismissive attitude.

      Please complain to MPD!

    • Anonymous

      He then warned that as a white female living in Columbia Heights, I should consider myself “prey” and expect things like that to happen, especially with the holiday season approaching.

      I think it’s time for a Slut Walk in Columbia Heights! Keep that cops name.

    • Jimmy S

      Props to Anonymous for being such a model citizen!The attitude of the police in that neighborhood is a bit disturbing, to say the least.

  • Sandra

    I always assumed/hoped that theives didn’t like classic-style ladies’ bikes. So sorry about your Abici! It’s gorgeous, and I’ll keep an eye out.

    • K

      I made the same mistake. I used to have a yellow Amsterdam style bike with pink tulips painted on it. People tried to steal it all the time. I’d come out of a building to find it upside down and pieces hanging off. luckily I had 3 locks on it. Unfortunately one day it was stolen form my porch on Capitol Hill. Also, I figured finding a bright yellow ladies amsterdam bike with pink tulips would be easy to find. I was wrong again.

  • anon


    I hate to be the realist codger but why are we still having this discussion? Do we talk about this because new people move to DC every day, or is it because you think something is going to change?

    Fact 1: Of all the places I’ve ever lived your chances of getting your bike stolen if you lock it up outside are enormous. We all know this, its talked about on a daily basis in the DC blogosphere. Acknowledge it and conduct your biking accordingly.

    Fact 2: Police generally don’t care. I know that rubs peoples sensibilities the other way, but personally I would prefer the finite DC police force spend their time dealing with actual crime, robbery, drugs, murder/rape, public drunkeness. Crimes that affect all of us, rather than the one incredibly naive bike owner who after seeing thousands of warnings on DC blogs decided he really didn’t have to lock his bike up properly.

    Fact 3: Until people actually start taking personal responsibility for their neighbohoods and what they see, nothing will change. What adult sees an 8 yr old trying to steal a bike and doesn’t forcibly take his tools from him and hold him by the scruff of his neck while calling the police? You walked away and let it happen? You didn’t even whip out your phone and take upclose video/photos of it happening( which by the way, usually does the job to disperse the vandals).

    They are young kids, not Israeli Krav Maga experts. People will continue to act as they do until they are forced otherwise. No, instead you guys cower, bury your heads in your iphones and pretend not to see it and walk home where you immediately fire up the inter-tubes to irately blog about it.

    • Anonymous

      “What adult sees an 8 yr old trying to steal a bike and doesn’t forcibly take his tools from him and hold him by the scruff of his neck while calling the police?”

      Haha Are you serious? Would you try to apprehend someone (even a kid) with a hammer? Perhaps so…but next time you do this, let me know how it goes for you. Actually, whip out your phone and take upclose video/photos of it happening.

      • anon

        Yes, and I have done so multiple times and I don’t even own a bicycle. You walk up to the kid and you as an adult and physically much larger person grab the hammer/wrench. He is 8. Don’t sit there and negotiate with him, don’t try to talk about his feelings. Be an adult for gods sakes.

        Oh, thats right, an adult life spent blogging about ones problems and running and expecting others to deal with your issues (hey, please be on the lookout for my bike and call the police for me when you see it) rather than addressing them in real “3d life” makes such an action seem implausable and super hero like, when in fact it isn’t.

        Or, you can remain passive aggressive in life and be honestly shocked when your bike is stolen. In the meantime, I will continue to laugh every time I see one of these “golly gee, my bike was stolen” posts.

        • Trixie

          I’m in complete agreement, but there are certain people on here who would call you an EVIL CHILD ABUSER.

          Apparently we are supposed to give out candy and hugs when children commit crimes.

    • actual crime

      Are you kidding me STEALING is an “actual crime”.

      • anon

        Yes, and so is jaywalking, but I am assuming if you saw one person stealing a bike, and a minute later saw someone shooting people in the street, you would want the police to focus on the crime of murder no?

        Everything in perspective…

        • djdc

          It can be both. It doesn’t have to be either-or.

        • actual crime

          So under your theory, if someone stole something from you, and you are the only victim, and you aren’t injured it doesn’t count as a “actual” crime.

    • andy(2)

      The 8 year old that steals a bike today could be tomorrow’s car thief. Just like the broken window policy NYC employed in the early 90s, cracking down on bike thieves will help replace a culture that tolerates crime with one that doesn’t.

      Shame on the police for not responding.

      Also – stealing a bike creates a secondary crime – selling a stolen bike, and potentially a third – buying illegal drugs.

    • I highly doubt that police officers aren’t dealing with bike theft only because they are too busy effectively putting down other serious crimes. Anonymous said that nine police officers were surrounding one drunk guy when she came upon them, and at least one officer’s idea of crime prevention is telling a white woman not to make herself prey. Does that sound like a good use of police resources to you, anon?

      Also, your vigilante ideal about holding the scruff of an 8-year-old’s neck until police arrive? First off, I am confused as to whether the arriving police officer is one of the same ones you said should be worried about more important things. Secondly, you know that’s illegal, right?

    • anon

      The parent of the 8 year old would kick your ass.

  • Nick

    I bet about 95% of these people locked their bikes with cable locks. The other 5% were probably low quality U locks. I wish bike shops didn’t sell them. They must know how ineffective they are.

    I use this lock: http://www.amazon.com/Kryptonite-Fahgettaboutit-Bicycle-U-Lock-6-Inch/dp/B000OZ9VLU

    And this cable for the front tire and helmet: http://www.amazon.com/Kryptonite-Kryptoflex-Bicycle-Security-7-Foot/dp/B000NOO3ZQ/ref=pd_sim_sg_3

    • Justin Seymour

      Decent choice.
      Pros: solid lock (will deter kids, but not the pros)
      Cons: heavy. The cable can easily be snipped.

      I used to have that lock until someone nearly disabled it. Not sure why they didn’t finish the job, but it was lucky for me. Like I said, I use two locks now. A smaller kryptonite u-lock (mini) and a kryptonite new york chain. The company is offering the newest heavy duty chain called the legend. It’s massive and better used as a stationary lock like your work place or anywhere you frequent often.

    • Meridian Hill

      If you use that cable, be smart about how you lock it in conjunction with the U lock. That cable can be quickly clipped.

    • Coral


      That’s the lock I use too!!!! Also – locking skewers for everything else – seat, wheels, etc. they cost about ten bucks for the cheapies and they work just fine. Never had a problem.

      • fz

        I need some locking skewers for my seat. Can you point me to one for $10?

        • dynaryder

          Nothing out there for $10. $10 will get you a bolt-on seatpost collar,which unless you have a Brooks saddle should be good enough in most cases. $20-30 will get you bolt-on skewers which are fine for protecting your wheels for trips tp the grocery store,but not for sitting out overnight. $70-80 will get you a set of proper locking skewers and collar bolt.

  • No Sleep till Brookland

    I ride a bike everyday, have for 10 years, it’s my car without I dont work. If I see a 7-8 year old punk wrenching on a bike, I will not go searching for a lazy cop. Grab the kid,yell… screme get others attention. Of corse cops aren’t gonna do anything to an 8 year old kid when their 20 year ol daddy is shooting his neighbor. Make them afraid of you… us bikers.

    I found my bike after it was stolen 6 months later. Grabed the dude took my bike back. If your not gonna stand up for yourself and others, I don’t want to here it.

  • MiCoBa

    Please please please write down your bike serial number. Without it, the cops will take a person reporting a bike theft as a joke cause it will be impossible to recover. This was the take home message at one of the neighborhood PSA meetings.

  • Rob

    Whoa – I HAVE seen that bike. Yesterday evening – I think it was around 7:30 as I was walking on 14th street southbound on the east side of the road. There was a young black male (18-22 maybe?) with the bike (was that you?), I only noticed because he dropped it on that little patio area in front of the Heights, and was kind of nonchalantly walking around without propping the bike up or locking it to anything – I remember thinking how easy it would be for someone to just walk by and grab the bike.

    Sorry I can’t be of any more help but maybe the Heights has a security camera? I THINK it was 7:30, but I also walked that way closer to 8:15 on my way back home…

    • Justin

      thanks for the heads up. no that was not me.

  • the totten.

    Check craigslist! This woman did – and stole her bike BACK!


    I don’t know if it’s the best idea to steal your bike back, it could be dangerous, but this chick is tough!

  • Justin Seymour

    Like one of the readers stated, I also think sometimes this is one of those frustrating topics without much hope for improvement. I wish cities would build heavy duty bike locking stations where we could feed a meter. Currently cities do not have an incentive for bike security.

  • Sonja

    I am not 100% certain, but I think I might have seen the white bike on my way to work this morning, chained to a parking meter in front of LA Boxing on 24th St NW between L and M. You might want to give LA Boxing a call to find out if it’s still there. Good luck!

  • Lt. Jova

    Pls. contact me on 202/359-0922. We have recovered a bike matching that description.

    • Justin

      the bike recovered was the tan one pictured above … the red and yellow one is still out there. thanks for everyone keeping an eye out and thanks Lt. Jova!

  • Barky

    What should we do if we see someone riding the stolen bike pictured above? I always want to help, but I’m not sure what the correct course of action would be… Halp

    • Justin

      call the police and then post back on this space?

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to share something that I witnessed a couple of months ago that I think will bring smiles to many on here. I know I enjoyed watching this incident unfold greatly.

    It occurred in Mt. Pleasant, on Park Rd. just west of 16th St. A car driving down Park screeched to a stop, the occupant, a young guy, jumped out and ran toward two guys walking down the sidewalk with a bike. He tackled the guy who was actually on the bike, started yelling at him threateningly, using some choice language which I won’t repeat here. The thief staggered to his feet and backed away. The guy from the car picked the bike up, took it back to his car, put it in the trunk, and drove off.

    I don’t know whether the bike had just been stolen, and he was out looking for it, or if he just happened to have been driving by and saw his bike which had been missing for some time. Perhaps if the owner reads this he can enlighten us.

    The incident ended with the owner driving happily away with his bike, and the thief scuttling away down 16th street looking over his shoulder in fear, either of the police arriving, or perhaps of being blindsided and tackled again by the bike owner.

  • Re: the other bike. Is it a Novara with a Grinnell College license sticker on it? I saw a frame with a similar paint job locked at 14th & Rhode Island (with a police removal tag on it)–but couldn’t tell from the pic whether it’s the same bike.

  • Rick

    The subject who had the colorful bike uptop stolen, if he wants another one, there appears to be one outside of churckey. It’s had everything stolen off of it, but the frame is still there. It’s definitely not his because the one outside of churckey isn’t single speed. Currently it’s got red tape on it that says “remove”. Can’t guarantee it’s the same size, but I’m fairly certain it’s the same type of bike frame. Might be worth looking into.

  • Anonymous

    I have had bikes stolen from my porch, twice.

    First time bike was left unlocked on porch over night and most likely a drunk customer from the now closed bar at the end of the street took it. I actually recovered it after posting a picture on CL. Somebody (an ex-cop actually) spotted it. I went there called the police and gave them my case number from when I reported it stolen (with the serial, thank you very much). They saaid ok it’s yours you can take it. Except it was locked with a motorbike indestructible megachain.

    I went door to door as the cop watched. Found the old aunt of the teenager who had locked it and. i told her I wasn’t going to press charges if if I got my bike back. She called him and he unlocked it. He even gave me my eggbeater pedals back.

    I had no proof he took it himself it could have been dumped in a alley or something since it was a 62cm fixed gear with eggbeaters, not the easiest riding experience :-) Since then I have been locking my bike 100% of the time.

    That’s until a few month ago when I fixed up a bike for a friend of mine. She was supposed to pick it up that morning so I unlocked it at 10AM because I had to leave the house and she was coming to pick it up that morning. By the time she came at noon it was gone. And I live on a dead end street.

    Overall the cops are not doing anything about bike theft. For the past several weeks I have seen an 8 year old kid riding around the neighborhood on an adult Gravity bike worth at least $1000. He can barely touch the pedal when seating on the toptube. i really doubt he got it for his birthday.

    I haven’t seen a similar bike it reported stolen or I would have done something.


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