New York City finally got my bicycle. I knew it would happen sooner or later. The warnings were there. The last time I went to the bike shop to check on which locks were best, the owner said, “If you want to park your bike on the street in Manhattan, my advice is, ‘Don’t.” He showed me a variety of chains, but said that all of them were useless against someone who wanted to steal your bike. Plus, you had to get special locks for your seat and your wheels, because those got stolen even if the frame was left behind.
So I knew the odds.
Bicycle theft in the city is out of control, and there is, according to the New York Times, a flourishing trade in stolen bikes. The thousands of young guys crisscrossing the city to deliver takeout pizza and Chinese to apartments here and there all use bicycles, and even they get their bicycles stolen. One of the delivery guys even stolen my bicycle a few months ago from outside my front door. He had to carry it down five flights of stairs, although that didn’t deter him. But him we got on camera, leaving the building with two bicycles, so the police knew where to go looking for it.
This time I wasn’t as lucky. I went to have lunch on Prince Street, in the middle of trendy SoHo. Even though the bike was locked and in full view of the restaurant, I told the manager I had my bike parked out front. Could he please keep an eye on it every now and then. There was also a camera focused on the bike spot. During lunch I glanced outside occasionally to see if the bike was still there. Five minutes before leaving, I saw it was gone.
I got that horrible feeling one always gets at the moment you realize you’ve been robbed. I saw all the hundreds of miles I have cycled around Manhattan, the trips up and down the Hudson and East rivers, vanish in front of me. And yet there was also a momentary sense of relief – weirdly – because I knew I wouldn’t have to be petrified anymore of my bike being stolen. Because it was no long my possession to be worried about.
The police came an hour later, the manager was less than helpful, and the restaurant’s camera wasn’t actually switched on. So there is no evidence and no bike. So I guess it’s back to walking.
Postscript: Only a few days after the above theft, documentary filmmaker Casey Neistat and his brother made a short film on how easy it is to steal a bike in New York City. It’s both funny and scary.