Being A Vulnerable User: I've Been Robbed! Again and Again and Again!

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Be Vulnerable, You Already Are

I don't need to tell you that as cyclists we are often, sometimes uncomfortably... how shall I put this... "vulnerable?" Let's go with that. Vulnerable.

We are a little vulnerable out there. It's right there in the title, "Vulnerable Road User"

  • When a motorist passes too closely: vulnerable.
  • When a simple pothole or field of glass brings our pleasant ride to an abrupt end: vulnerable.
  • When a nasty comment, muttered by another, maybe not even meant to be heard, makes it's way into our ears and leaves us feeling like we just aren't welcome out there on our streets: vulnerable

Now, it is not all bad, this vulnerability. Without it, we would not be able to share a delighted grin with an umbrella-less pedestrian in a downpour or interrupt a cycle of road rage with a smile and a wave. We wouldn't be able to do our jobs as human ambassadors to the roadways if we came armed for battle!

I'm into vulnerable is what I'm saying. I think we should go with it. Claim it. Vulnerability is the new strength. But then there's...

Bike Robbery

Our vulnerability doesn't end when we arrive at our destinations and get off our bikes. While we are away, our bicycles themselves are terribly, terribly vulnerable!

Parking a bike is easy compared to a car, and so convenient! But security can be a big headache. I hear that in bike friendly Copenhagen no amount of locks can guarantee that your bike will still be there when you return. For some folks, bike ownership is more of a short-term prospect.

Bike theft is one thing, bike robbery is quite another. Stealing a bike is relatively difficult compared to robbing a bike, opportunistically swiping everything on the bike that is not welded directly to the frame.

Many cyclists are so afraid of thieves that they carry their seat and front wheel inside when they arrive at their destination!

These people aren't crazy to be concerned for their precious bikes! I have seen some weird things done to unattended bikes...

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Why would someone do that?

Car commuters have this indoor area they tow around with them where they can just leave their sunglasses and their drinks and their backpack. That room has even got a basement, the boot, supplying the car owner with long term storage options. Its an incredible feature of a car.

While I have never (knocking on wood) had my wheels stolen or my seat swiped, my bike has been robbed a number of times. I tend to keep a simple toolkit (adjustable wrench, multi-tool, chain tool, patch kit and levers, sometimes batteries, sometimes an extra chain link, sometimes a little bottle of lube) in a seatbag. I have had those tools stolen three times. Let's count them in Ghostbusters, shall we?

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The first time was in the middle of the afternoon while I was at the movies downtown. The thief was a fella I'd been chatting with for several minutes before I went inside. I'm sure it was him because he left a lapel pin I'd complimented him on inside the bag, like an asshole's calling card.

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The second time was right behind my own apartment building. I've written before about how challenging overnight parking is for bikes, especially cargo bikes. Well, don't tell anyone, but our Xtracycle lives outside, under the carport most nights. It feels like a pretty secure spot, even though an old trailer of mine was stolen from the same spot by a thief with some bolt-cutters pretty soon after we moved in. That theft hurt, because the thief got away with a beaufiful tool roll that Lady Oil had sewn me after I had admired Sherlock Holmes' lockpicking kit. The tool roll was a father's day gift and I love-love-loved it! Gone. The one item I cannot imagine the thief was going to get any drug or food money for was the one item I just wish they had left. The funny thing is that I'd actually spaced and left a video camera in one of the Xtracycle's pockets, and they'd somehow missed that. Nice thieving, Dillweed!

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The third bike robbery happened a couple of nights ago. Once again Wheelio (our bike) was spending the night under the carport. When her in the morning I was dismayed to find that I'd been relieved of:

  • my new gloves
  • three clip-on tail lights
  • two big framepumps (Why two? Because cargo bike.)
  • some bungees
  • several unpatched tubes from flat fixes
  • a 20 foot long nylon cinch strap that was getting moldy from living at bottom of my Xtracycle slings
  • my customary tool kit
  • and the replacement tool roll that Lady Oil had sewn me for my birthday!

Tragedy! At least they left the kid's seat. And her blanket!

So, y'know, whatever. Things are impermanent and we need to cultivate detachment from material possessions and stuff. It still feels creepy to know that somebody was digging through my stuff. And I love Wheelio and I wish I could have protected her!

In regards to the thieves: I know it may sound like the most bleeding-heart liberal response to getting robbed possible, but I need to believe that whoever took my stuff REALLY needs the money that they'll get for it. Or maybe they really needed those gloves, or that bike pump. Like Jean Valjean! Like when your kid losses a toy out in the world and you need reassure them that whoever found it will give it a new home, y'know? Your lost possesion will be put it to good use?

Too bad none of us will ever know what happens to our stolen stuff...

Oh, wait! I do!

True story: Soon after we moved into our current apartment my hacked together old bike trailer was stolen. The cable lock was cut and left behind. I filed a police report, (which was funny) and fumed for a day or two and got over it. I'd already found that my cycle truck could handle our grocery needs and I don't really see myself as a bike trailer kinda Pedal Person so the loss didn't really cost me anything. I'd basically gotten over it when, riding through nearby Cal Anderson park, I spotted my trailer! It was hitched to a mountain bike and was stuffed to capacity with what looked like all of someone's earthly possessions. One side of the trailer had been fitted with some kind of pole structure and it was supporting an edge of a pretty good sized tent! As I watched, my former grocery trailer's new resident climbed out and began packing up camp.

I decided right then that I was not going to confront this man and try to get his trailer back. I mean, Jeeze! He was definitely putting it to better use than I ever had. And I'll never know his story, but I bet he needed that trailer more than I ever would.

I did try to start a conversation with him, but unsuccessfully. As soon as I revealed that the trailer had once been mine he became very defensive. Which makes sense. Even though I tried to explain that I didn't care if he stole it or got it off of someone else, all he could do was defend himself. I actually feel kinda bad that I even approached him. It certainly made both of us uncomfortable and I guess it ruined the climax of my story as well.

Thing is, at least this one time I was lucky enough to peek into the next life of our stolen bike stuf, and I am glad for that.

True story.

How about you? Do you see any positive sides to Pedal People's vulnerability? Have you ever had anything stolen from your bike? Have you ever passive-aggressively confronted a thief? Comment below!