A bicycle wheel sits locked, ineffectually, to a rack in Brooklyn.

A Tribute to my Stolen Bike

IT HAPPENED TO ME, the thing that every cyclist worries about when they park their bike in public; my bike has been stolen. I am still unsure how it happened. The bike was locked with a simple cable instead of a meatier U lock, a mistake I will not make again. 

I went to the Minneapolis Central Library last Saturday, May 19, to pick up a book. I locked my bike to the bike racks on Nicollet Mall and walked on in. After about 20 minutes’ browsing, I found the book I was looking for, checked it out and headed back to the rack. I saw an empty spot where my bike should have been, and my heart skipped a beat. I walked around the entire rack, and looked over the street and back in disbelief. Not seeing the bike right away had me worried, and I went into the library to report the stolen bike. They said they would check the cameras, and if they could see the person who had stolen the bike, they could get it back if the thief entered the library; otherwise I would have to perform a data request with Hennepin County in order to see the footage. 

I became quite worried. It was 12:30 p.m., and I had to be to work at 1, and where I was working that day, at Theodore Wirth Park, was inaccessible by transit. Before, the trip was easy: 15 minutes from my apartment to work by bike, quicker than by car even. But now I was forced to use a Lime electric bike, with its $10 fare, given that I was already downtown and only had about 30 minutes to get there. I am writing this during my free time at work, mentally preparing for the 45-minute walk that I will now have to do without my bike. 

My Schwinn Moab 3 mountain bike was my primary mode of transportation. I used it to get to college (while it is in session), to both of my part-time jobs, to the gym and generally wherever I need to go further than a short walk from my apartment in Loring Park. Although I can walk to all of those locations, and take public transit to one of my jobs, not using a bike greatly increases the amount of time I will spend commuting, making all of these trips more difficult — especially, as I mentioned, the now 45-minute walk to my other job. 

My dad passed this bike on to me when he purchased a new one. He had the bike for over 20 years, having bought it along with a nearly-matching one for my mom. He gave it to me shortly after I moved to Minneapolis so I would be able to commute by bike and get around the city faster. I had the bike for roughly a year, taking it on trails and exploring the city last summer. I used it to buy groceries, get to work and school, and even used it throughout the winter. The Schwinn was serving me well. 

My younger brother using my bike. Author photo.

They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone; and this definitely applies to me right now. I am extraordinarily inconvenienced by the loss of a bike. For me it is the fastest mode of transportation, one where I (generally) do not have to worry about parking. I am able to quickly cut through the downtown streets and across the city’s parks to avoid having to deal with traffic. My bike got me around quickly, conveniently, had no costs associated with it, and on top of that, I got some exercise along the way. 

Now without my bike, I am forced to find often inadequate and inconvenient ways of getting around. In some areas I travel in, public transit is readily available and I am only inconvenienced by the decrease in speed. Other areas have little transit access, and I am often forced into a long walk. Due to work, this walk will be late at night, causing more annoyance. 

There is also potential cost involved. I filed a theft report with the Hennepin County security staff, but it’s unlikely that I will get the bike back. I now have to buy a new bike. From here on out I am going to follow my mom’s adage: “When you are in a city, buy a cheap bike and an expensive bike lock.” Unfortunately I only followed one piece of her advice (cheap bike) while neglecting the other (cheap lock) and have suffered the consequences (stolen bike). 

As it turns out, even on a topic like biking in a city, my rural Minnesota-raised mother still knew what she was talking about. 

What to Learn From This

Now that I’ve had a chance to rant, I will include some useful information. Bike theft is distressingly common. It is unfortunate, inconvenient and extremely frustrating, but here are some tips to keep it from happening to you.

First, a few thoughts about prevention:

  • To start, buy a good bike lock, such as a Kryptonite U-lock with cable or a Firos hardened steel lock. This greatly reduces the likelihood of someone being able to steal the bike in the first place. For bikes with quick-release wheels, a lock for each wheel will help keep your bike not only yours, but rideable.
  • Write down or photograph the bike’s serial number. That helps the authorities identify the bike if they find it.
  • Purchase an Airtag, or a tracking device that will allow you to see your bike’s location at all times, helping you to locate it if it happens to get stolen.
  • Whenever possible, keep your bike indoors, in a secure spot, such as your home or workplace. When you’re out in public, put it where you can see it.

What should you do if your bike gets stolen? First, file a report with the city or the county where it happened; Minneapolis has resources for bike theft victims here. Presuming you are smarter than I am and have your serial number, you should also register your bike with the city, which you can do on the same page.

If cameras are around, ask the building owner or security officer if you can get access to the footage; that will give you an idea of who stole the bike and how it was stolen. Additionally, posting the bike on the Twin Cities stolen bike Facebook group gives you a chance of recovery if others happen to see the bike. 

Police departments often offer online resources for preventing bike theft. Photo courtesy City of St. Paul

What if your bike gets stolen and you can’t get it back? You can always buy a new bike, while remembering to buy a better-quality bike lock. However, for those of us on a tight budget, here are several options for low-cost or free bikes:

Lastly, if you are a college student, see what your college or university may have to offer. This is the solution I am using. Minneapolis College has a bicycle club on campus, the MCTC Bike Collective, and through their bicycle loaner-to-owner program I will be able to get a free bike, only having to stop by the collective for a few meetings for maintenance and for them to ensure I am taking care of the bike. 

Though I am going to get a different bike — for free, no less — I am still angry that my bike was stolen. It served as my transportation and greatly enhanced my ability to get around everywhere. I encourage everyone to learn from my mistake and ensure that they have a high-quality bike lock. 

About Seth Bose

Pronouns: he/him

I am a Loring Park resident and a student at Minneapolis College studying both Economics and Mathematics. I am an advocate for more transit and denser, more sustainable, and all around better cities.