domingo, 13 de febrero de 2011

Bicycle Theft on La Ciclovía - Redux!

Why would a thief carry off a bike instead of riding it? Why would a bike thief wear a mask? But the photo's dramatic!

It's a real problem. Today, one of Bogotá Bike Tours' bikes got stolen, from a client. She had gotten off of the bike on Seventh Ave. and 64th St., during La Ciclovia, when some guys dressed in cycling clothing approached her and invited her on rides up a road outside of Bogotá. Suddenly, one of them pulled out a knife, another hopped on the bicycle, and that was it.

I'll point out that this wasn't just any old bike, but a shiny new aluminum frame bike. The best way to not have this happen to you is to ride an old, or old-looking bike.

It's happened many times before, to us and to others. Few items are easier to make off with than a bicycle, or easier to sell. I suspect that they'll repaint ours or send it to Medellin or elsewhere to fence. And, the best place to steal a bike is on La Ciclovia, where all you have to do is sit back and wait until a vulnerable-looking person passes by on a nice bike.

Obviously, in a city of eight million people, the police can't be everywhere. And, in any case, every time I visit a police station to place a denuncia - which I've done more than once - the cops complain that their hands are tied by Colombian law, and that using 'bait bikes' would mean illegal entrapment.

These thieves are not kids who spot an opportunity, but organized rings which prey regularly on cyclists. So, catching them would mean recovering lots of bikes and preventing many future thefts. 

Anti-theft advice consists mostly of locking your bike securely, with one or even two U-locks.

But this advice isn't worth much against Bogotá thieves, who aren't shy about taking the bike from its rider - whether by deceit, threat or physical strength.

On La Ciclovia: Your bike could be next!
In a previous incident, the thieves also worked in a team. One blocked the cyclist's path along La Ciclovía, forcing him to stop. Then his buddy pulled the rider off of the bike and hopped on himself. In a moment, they were gone. I've heard of other cases in which the thieves simply befriend the victim and then ask to try out their bike. You can image what happens next.

The one thing which can stop these thefts is public action. If the many people nearby would only respond by yelling at the thieves, grabbing the stolen bike's rear wheel, blocking the thief's path - any of many things which meant almost no risk to themselves - the thief might very well have gotten caught, and might even seek a different line of work.

My advice: Carry a lock, be aware of who's around you. And, most of all, don't be vain. Ride an older bike or make your new bike look older and worn! 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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