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Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 2014

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly five years since we last went traipsing around SoHo grading people’s bike locking with Hal Ruzal from Bicycle Habitat. So it was time for the next chapter with the mechanic who wears pink-purple socks, admonishing you about how to lock your wheels, frame, and seat correctly.

The process is simple: Hal and I spend about an hour walking around, and whatever happens, I try to capture it on the fly. (Which is harder than it sounds.)  This time it led to quite a few surprises and — as usual — many hilarious moments.  Among other things, we learned that Hal has become an international celebrity. And wait until you see the scenes at a Citi Bike station. Let’s just say Hal was impressed.

The previous three Streetfilms in the “Hal Grades Your Bike Locking” series have received at least 300,000 plays.  Here they are for your viewing pleasure.

2003: Hal Grades Your Bike Locking (originally from bikeTV)
2008: Hal & Kerri Grade Your Bike Locking
2009: Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 3: The Final Warning

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Thief Hit With Ice Cube, Nabbed on Bike Lane

Photo: Jessica Kuo

Last night at about 11:30 p.m., Jessica Kuo came across “a man handcuffed with his face planted against the bike lane” at Market and Valencia Streets in the left-turn bike junction. She reported:

A friend who lived in an apartment a block away actually saw the guy steal the bike, and right as he biked away, my friend threw an ice cube at his head and managed to pelt him from the third story of the apartment building while he was on the phone with the cops to report the theft.

That friend was a man who only wanted to be identified as Brendan. Kuo relayed his account: “The owner of the bike actually stepped out of the bar [at Market and Laguna Streets] for a cigarette and saw the thief try to take it, which is why the thief took off, prompting Brendan to throw the ice cube at him.”

SFPD said it couldn’t confirm the reports. When we emailed Brendan to confirm it, and asked if he had anything else to add, he reiterated: “For the record I’d like to note that I nailed him on the forehead with the oversized ice cube, from three stories up.”

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Civic Center Bike Station Delayed Another Year, Riders Left Crossing Fingers

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Photo: Bryan Goebel

The bike station that was supposed to be installed at Civic Center Station in June won’t come for at least another year, according to BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo. No word yet on what’s caused the delay, but Beroldo said the station hasn’t even been fully designed yet (it’s at “95 percent”). BART does have full funding to build the station, however.

The delay is sure to be a big disappointment for BART and Muni Metro riders looking for a bit more peace of mind when leaving their bikes at the station. Streetsblog SF’s founding editor, Bryan Goebel, would’ve been one of the latest victims of theft this week, had BART police not saved the day.

Goebel had parked at Civic Center to take BART to Oakland to report on the agency’s labor hearings. When he returned, he found that BART officers caught a thief stealing parts off his bike and others parked at the racks, which are accessible to anyone inside the fare gates.

In the thief’s bag, Goebel said police found his rear bike light along with ”items which lead them to believe he’s been picking parts off other bikes.” The thief was arrested and will reportedly be charged with burglary.

Goebel noted that it’s “frustrating” that the only options for getting to the East Bay by bike and BART are to take his bike on the train or bike to Embarcadero — the farthest station on the east side of Market, and SF’s only BART stop with a bike station — to find secure parking. Bike stations, like those at the Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART stations, are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed.

“Having [a bike station] at Civic Center will be so convenient when I need to go the East Bay,” Goebel said.

Until then, BART might want to consider trying to scare off thieves with a cardboard cutout of one of its officers. Seriously.

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Are SFPD and BART Police Starting to Take Bike Theft Seriously?

BART police had some welcome news for Bay Area cyclists this week: An undercover sting led to the arrest of an alleged thief in possession of ten bikes and more than 100 bike parts. It’s a nice follow-up to the SFPD’s arrest last July of a thief who had 114 stolen bicycles.

Some stolen bicycles recovered by BART police this week. Photo via CBS 5

Stories of successful bike theft crackdowns in San Francisco aren’t common, but it’s promising to hear that local law enforcement officials are directing resources to address the problem, since the perceived low risk of stealing bikes is what makes bicycles such an appealing target for thieves.

As Streetsblog New York City relayed last August, the Priceonomics Blog looked at why bike theft is so prevalent, even when “it seems as if stealing bikes shouldn’t be a lucrative form of criminal activity.” The conclusion? Bike thieves are rarely caught, and even if they are, they rarely face jail time, and that’s what draws them to the business.

A 2007 estimate of SF bike theft put the citywide number at 2,000 to 3,000 bikes per year. In the Mission, an average of 60 bikes are stolen every month, officers said at a workshop on bike theft prevention held by the SFPD last week, according to SF Weekly.

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Bike Station Coming to Civic Center BART/Muni Station Next Summer

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A BART bike station at Embarcadero. Photo via Oakland Local

BART and Muni Metro riders who bike to Civic Center Station would have less reason to worry about getting their wheels stolen if a planned bike station is installed next June, potentially adding a sectioned-off parking area and a fix-it-yourself repair station.

The bike station, which is currently being designed, would add 150 to 175 bike parking spaces outside of the paid areas, allowing it to be used by both Muni and BART passengers. The number of regular bike racks inside the paid BART area would also be expanded.

“The existing facilities are at capacity, and projections for demand just keep going up and up,” said Maria Lombardo of the SF County Transportation Authority in a recent presentation to the agency’s board of directors.

Currently, Civic Center Station has 63 bike racks, which can be reached by anyone inside BART’s paid fare gate area. Muni Metro riders, who aren’t allowed to bring bikes aboard trains, have no bike parking available in the station.

Bike stations, which are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed, already exist at Embarcadero Station as well as Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART Stations in the East Bay. BART also plans to open a bike station at 19th Street in Oakland by the next Bike to Work Day in May.

Existing bike racks at Civic Center are located inside BART's paid fare gates, but still leave bikes susceptible enough to theft to deter many would-be bike commuters. Photo: bsii/Flickr

Expanding secure bike parking is a key piece of BART’s recently-adopted Bicycle Plan [PDF], which sets out to double bike-to-BART ridership in the next ten years. BART surveys [PDF] show that the existing bike stations are one of the system’s largest draws for bike commuters. Surveys at Downtown Berkeley and Fruitvale stations revealed that 17 percent of bike station users would bike to BART less often without the security offered by a bike station, while another 19 percent said they wouldn’t bike to BART at all. Twenty-one percent said they would instead bring their bikes on BART trains, which are already regularly at capacity.

The Civic Center bike station is expected to cost $830,000 and to be funded with BART Prop 1B Lifeline funds, Prop K sales tax funds, and the Prop AA vehicle registration fee.

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What Do You Do When Bike Thieves Get Hip to the Game?

Flickr photo: eb_jhu

Flickr photo: eb_jhu

My work routinely requires me to travel to San Francisco City Hall to cover hearings and I would estimate I’m there on average between one and two times a week. I almost always ride my bicycle and in the course of nearly two years writing for Streetsblog, I’ve never had a problem locking up on the bike racks in front of the building. Unfortunately, that changed last Thursday during a hearing for the CPMC draft environmental impact report.

After living in New York City for eight years and losing every piece of a bicycle that wasn’t thoroughly secured to the frame, I’m sensitive to bike theft and had taken most of the necessary precautions I thought I needed. Though I’ll admit I had fantastic luck when I made a boneheaded move last year and left my bicycle locked outside the 24th Street BART Station over a long weekend, I still haven’t had anything stolen from my bike in three years living in the Bay Area.

Before last Thursday, I was pretty confident with the security measures I’ve taken with my bicycle. The quick-release skewers on my wheels are clamped tight with hardware-variety hose clamps and my Brooks B-17 is secured to my frame with links of bicycle chain wrapped in an old tube, both tricks mechanic friends in New York City taught me.

I guess I figured if the bike came back to me whole after four days sitting on the street in the middle of one of the more theft-prone intersections of the Mission, surely it would be safe in front of City Hall, with all its security cameras and law enforcement officers, right?

Not so much.

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Thief Steals Special Needs Tandem Bike, Cops Ask for Help Recovering It

buddybike_shelley_riding_copy_small.jpgThanks to a thief, one SF girl can't have fun on her Buddy Bike like this kid. Photo: SF Citizen.
I don't have particularly strong feelings about notions of Karma or Hell, but if there is something to them, I know a particular bike thief is going to have it rough come judgment time.

The San Francisco Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in locating a suspect they can only describe as a white male, 5’ 8”- 5’ 10” tall, 25-30 years old, with a shaved head, last seen wearing dark clothing, who stole a bicycle that belonged to a special needs child. 

According to the SFPD:

On May 16th, 2010, at approximately 4:30am, the suspect entered the gated parking lot of an apartment complex located on the 1000 block of Northpoint St. The suspect stole the custom bicycle and rode it out of the parking garage. The bicycle is manufactured by BuddyBike. It is unique in that only three other BuddyBikes are in San Francisco and only 450 exist in the United States. 

The manufacturer describes this bicycle as an "inline tandem bicycle that places the stroker in the front seat while the rear rider controls the steering…making it especially beneficial for special needs children who otherwise would not be able to experience the thrill of riding a bicycle." The bicycle belongs to a 9 year old child who uses it weekly with her family. The bicycle is identical to the attached photo.  Anyone with information is urged to contact the Confidential Tip Line, 415-575-4444.

So keep an eye out on Craigslist, eBay and your local bike shop and let us know if you find anything (right after you call the Tip Line, of course).

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On Bike Theft and Boneheads

bike_theft.jpgFlickr Photo: Jym Dyer
Last week I did something wholly in opposition to the tenets of common sense cycling in a city: I left my quality bicycle locked up for four days in a high bicycle theft location, in this case on 24th Street right next to the BART station.

You see, last Thursday afternoon, I was late to catch the BART train I needed to get to an appointment in Oakland, and walking was not going to get me there in time. It was rush hour, so I couldn't take the bike with me, so I locked the front wheel and frame to a parking sign with a U-lock and jumped on BART.

Problem is, on the way back, I forgot all about riding my bike and walked home to pack for a long weekend camping in Yosemite. Flash forward to Monday afternoon, 4 p.m., I needed to get to an appointment in 15 minutes, and when I got downstairs in my building, my bicycle was nowhere to be found. Forgetting my own actions from Thursday, I felt a knot double in my stomach, my face flushed; I was helpless and exposed.

My Surly Long-Haul Trucker was more than fabricated tubes of metal and rubber, it had sentimental value and a name (yes, I anthropomorphize my bike as much as any motorist does his car). I built it up piece by piece with a mechanic friend three years ago, so I literally knew it inside and out.

My mind raced with feelings of rage and confusion, so that for ten minutes I couldn't think past accusatory thoughts toward my neighbors (who I assumed had hopped the back wall to my building and scaled it again with a heavy cargo-bike over their shoulder) or the contractor my landlord had hired to renovate the retail space on the ground floor of our building (both doors out to the street were locked and my landlord said the contractor didn't have a key).

Then I remembered what happened on Thursday.

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When Old Parking Meter Poles Go, So Often Does Bike Parking

Picture_5.pngToronto's Post and Ring solution for bicycle parking on old parking meter poles. Photo: David Baker
When Oakland installed its first pay-and-display parking kiosks in early 2007, parking managers ordered employees to remove the heads of the approximately 5,000 single-space meters they were replacing. Just like other cities transitioning from using single-space parking meters to newer multi-space pay stations, the parking managers failed to realize the utility of those old meter poles for cyclists, who used them for locking up their bicycles. 

"This was the last breath of turning your back on cyclists. It was obscene," said East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) Executive Director Robert Raburn, who admitted that they weren't prepared for the change and the effect it would have on cyclists, so their advocacy was "reactionary." 

The EBBC lobbied the Oakland City Council to retain what meters they could after the process had started. "What we were asking for was to make sure there was some integration between the installation of parking kiosks and bike parking," said Raburn

Jason Patton, Oakland's Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager, said that the initial problem stemmed from the fact that two divisions of two separate agencies within the city weren't on the same page about bicycle parking and so the provisional solution was the best they could do.

"The plan for the new parking stations didn't address bicycle parking. Really the only option we had in working on their timeline was to leave meter heads," said Patton.

Over the complaints of the parking division, the EBBC worked with Oakland's bicycle program to develop an interim policy of preserving a minimum of two meter heads per block space in the areas where kiosks were installed. The bicycle division then spent a good deal of time and money surveying bicycle use on every street where the meters were being replaced to maximize the benefit to cyclists. Parking managers removed the "guts" of the meter heads so that drivers were less confused and affixed small yellow stickers that remind cyclists to park their bicycles parallel to the curb.

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Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 3: The Final Warning!

It's Bike Month - which means there are scads of neophytes out there nationwide giving cycling a try.  Oh goody! But, oh baddy - it also means more improper locking - and we all know there are predators just licking their chops at the thought of stealing all or part of your bike. So we want to do all we can to preach good locking technique and thwart thieves.

We need a sage in these times to remind us how easy it is to roll your bike.  Once again enter the immortal, Bicycle Habitat mechanic Hal Ruzal to give us the straight dope in what he's calling "your final warning" in this last chapter of our exclusive trilogy.  Let's hope the third time is a charm!

This time around Hal's not only grading bike locking ability of anonymous locker uppers, but he also shows you how he secures his bike so you too can score an "A" (or at least have a decent shot at an A- or B+.)  And if you love the humorous anecdotes and musings here, don't miss our first two chapters:  "Hal Grades Your Bike Locking" and "Hal (and Kerri) Grade Your Bike Locking".