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Pros and cons of collectively locking up bikes

July 8, 2015

There’s a bicycle rack built for two under all that chromoly and aluminum.

A whole mess of bikes caught my eye Tuesday evening as I was riding along the north side West Broadway Avenue, between South Granville and Oak Street.

Six bicycles in total were bunched together, three on either side of one city curbside bike rack — the upside-down U-shaped kind with the horizontal bar bearing the punched-out words “bike vancouver”.

The bicycles were secured to the rack, or to each other, or to both, by a bunch of U-locks, one hoop lock and one long cable lock — at least six locks in total.

While the potential enhanced security of such a pile up may have held some appeal, it was probably more an expression of friendship among the six cyclists.

And they were probably just too lazy to spread out and lock up to any of the three other curbside bike racks on that side of the block.

All the collective security of sliced bread


The only things to be said for such a tangle — security-wise — are that it might put off the casual thief and that the bicycles on the inside of the pile may be potentially harder to steal than the bicycles on the outside.

But the later is only true if the bicycles are properly secured using nice thick U-locks. If the locking-up is done haphazardly so that, say, bikes end up only locked by the frame to other quick-release wheels, then stealing them could be likened to picking grapes off of a bunch.

And by itself, such a pile wouldn’t deter any experienced bicycle thieves (the pros and cons referred to in the headline).

You could even argue that the messiness encourages loitering and browsing and invites parts theft.

Fortunately, last night’s closely bunched bicycles were chiefly secured with sturdy, hard steel locks. The one long, flexible aircraft cable lock was really just icing on the cake.

Had it been otherwise; had all six bicycles been secured with just the cable lock, then those bikes would’ve been as safe as slices of bread in a plastic bag secured with a metal twist-tie.

Thieves can cut the cable with "dollar store" bolt cutters or pry the aluminum loop crimps with their teeth!

Thieves can cut this with “dollar store” bolt cutters or pry off the aluminum loop crimps.

All cable locks of almost any diameter are easily cut with cheap bolt cutters and the way the cable has been swaged or connected to the lock is always a weak point. In the case of a coated aircraft cable made for use with a separate mini-lock, the cable is looped on either end using double barrel crimping sleeves that are made of soft aluminum!

People buy cable locks because they are easy to use, lighter to carry and cheaper than real locks; and because some people don’t know any better.

Just like twist-ties, the point of cable locks is convenience, not security; people should remember that — thieves do. Click the image to enlarge it.

From → Bicycles, Fairview

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