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Old 08-09-06, 09:41 AM   #1
EnigManiac
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Post-ring lock-ups Warning!

This is the front-page story in todays' Toronto Star. With more than 13,000 post-ring curbside lockups, approximately 950,000 cyclists and 1.5 million bicycles in this city, this story should send alarm bells through city hall, but sadly, even with an allegedly pro-bicycle, left-wing administration, Mayor Miller and Bicycle Committee chair Adam Giambrone are far too inept and ineffective to actually act on a solution. And the police? The most you can expect from them is a sneer and a chuckle with a muttered 'sucks to be you' uttered behind your back.

Now you see it, now you don't
Aug. 9, 2006. 05:51 AM
BETSY POWELL
CRIME REPORTER


You'd think the safest place in the city to park your bike would be in front of police headquarters on a busy weekday.

It ain't so as I found out yesterday when a thief made off with my treasured Trek hybrid, a gift to replace another stolen bike. It was locked to one of the city's 13,000 post and ring lock-ups curbside at 40 College St., and disappeared sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

But that's not unusual, since Toronto is a mecca for bike theft, with some 3,971 stolen last year and that's just the number reported to police. (Unfortunately, no surveillance cameras are aimed at College St. that might have caught the brazen bandit, a constable on the duty desk told me.)

It's too soon to say if bike thefts are up or down this year over last, but at least one party with a vested interest a U.S.-based bicycle lock manufacturer predicted the summer of 2006 has the potential to set a record number of thefts due to more people riding their bicycles because of rising gas prices.

Anecdotally, as a cyclist who commutes to work and rides all over town sometimes to crime scenes the streets sure seem filled with more people who find that pushing pedals is the better way. If you can hang onto the bike, that is.

And as any big-city cyclist will tell you, the only place a bike is truly secure is between your legs because most locks can be foiled. Just ask anyone armed with wire cutters, saws, crowbars and now, perhaps worryingly, another weapon in the bike thief's arsenal: two-by-fours.

In the case of my bike, the metal stand of the lock-up was left intact, but there was no trace of the bike and basket, nor the cable threaded through the two wheels and Kryptonite lock. But Frank Lama, a magazine editor, has another story.

A week ago Saturday at around noon, Lama hitched his $1,200 Haro mountain bike to the post and ring lock-up at King and Yonge Sts., in full view of a security guard.

"I had a Kryptonite lock on it, (figuring) there's no way they're going to break the lock," Lama said.

But by the time he went to saddle up at 5 p.m., it was gone. "It sucks. I live downtown and ... now I'm running everywhere."

He believes the thief gave the guard advance warning. "A guy came up to him: `If I steal something out here, are you going to call the cops?' He said, `Yeah, of course, I am.' ... He watched him walk away and head toward Bay St."

But Lama believes the thief doubled back and left something that should raise the concern of city officials responsible for the ubiquitous post and ring lock-ups.

Beside the post lay a plank of wood, and the metal ring that bears the words City of Toronto was left in two pieces. Lama believes there's a flaw in the bike post that allowed the thief to use the two-by-four as leverage to snap the ring in two.

"When I talked to the cops, they said a couple of other bikes were stolen that way." The officer told him to get rid of the wood "so no one sees that these posts can be busted like that."

He said city officials called and asked for details and were "very concerned." The official in charge of the program couldn't be reached for comment last night.

"That's horrible," Reba Plummer, a partner at Urbane Cyclist on John St. near Queen St. W., said of the possibility of another breach in bike security. Just two years ago, the news broke that U-locks with cylindrical key mechanisms could easily be defeated with the simple twist of a Bic pen. Plummer said it prompted a massive recall, and the round keys that were used have been replaced.

The need for vigilance, however, remains.

"If I go anywhere, I have two locks $160 worth of locks for my 20-year-old $300 bike," Plummer laughed. "People will say my bike's not really worth anything, no one will steal it. Well, if they get five bucks for it, they'll steal it."

People in the city's biking community suspect that at least two bike shops sell stolen bikes, as well as "second-hand shops, pawn shops.... It's not just bikes, it's all that stereo equipment, all those tools, all that musical equipment," Plummer said.

"The problem is if there was no market, if you couldn't just steal a bike and get a few bucks somewhere, then the people would stop stealing bikes."

Pauline Craig, the city's cycling and transit project organizer, said plans to deploy 66 bike lockers are still on track, part of a $60,000 pilot project aimed at preventing bicycle theft. Cyclists can pay $10 a month to use one of the lockers, which each come with a unique key and lock.

For now, 22 lockers are at city hall and at the GO Transit station at Exhibition Stadium. More will be deployed at the Toronto Islands ferry docks at Bay St. and Queens Quay W., and at key subway stations.

"They're very secure and there's no record, that we're aware, of people being able to break into them because of the way the lock mechanism works," Craig said.

She said she had not heard of any complaints with the post and ring lock-ups but noted they are for short-term use.

"That's not a location where you'd want to leave your bike for several hours or overnight or over a weekend, it's just not safe. If the bike is out of your sight for an extended period of time, they can pry locks open, they can saw off things. They need time and a certain amount of privacy to do that."

Unless you park in front of police headquarters.
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Old 08-09-06, 09:59 AM   #2
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Good luck buddy sorry about the bike. I have been to Toronto many times and it is a cool city even cooler to bike hopefully something turns arround.
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Old 08-09-06, 10:39 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by ryanparrish
Good luck buddy sorry about the bike. I have been to Toronto many times and it is a cool city even cooler to bike hopefully something turns arround.
Well, it wasn't my bike that was stolen, it was the reporter who was visiting police HQ whose bike was stolen. The picture of the snapped ring off the post that appeared in the paper was a disturbing image for me, however, because I use those ring-posts all the time. sometimes for several hours and my bikes are both rare and expensive.
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Old 08-09-06, 10:45 AM   #4
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A solid 2x4 has been standard issue for thieves here in Toronto for years & years. If the ring doesn't break it can be used on older locks successfully, even on cheap cables. It's called leverage, and it's a powerful force.

The flaw in the ring posts is pretty obvious, but they stand up well for what they are, their intended use, temporary parking. Extra care is required for commuters that leave a bike on a post for 8+ hours. If you're riding an expensive bike the same extra care is required.
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Old 08-09-06, 01:12 PM   #5
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How about a URL for the article?
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Old 08-09-06, 02:14 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by randya
How about a URL for the article?
While I copied the story in its' entirety for your convenience, if you prefer a URL, I have attached it below.

I immediately wrote a letter to the editor and have been contacted to advise that it will likely appear in tomorrows' paper.

It is a sad reality in Toronto that cyclists are so often the victim
of opportunistic thieves. I've heard it mentioned countless times
that Toronto is the bike-theft capital of North America and, having
been a victim three times over the past twenty-five years, I have
learned to take additional precautions: use a minimum of two locks of
different types (cable, chain, u-lock) and if you can carry three,
then do so; lock to multiple parts of the bike and lock-up stand; park
in a high-visibility, high-traffic area. While those precautions have
served me well, it is disturbing to think that high-visibility,
high-traffic areas such as in front of police HQ and King & Yonge were
no deterent to the scum that stole the bikes mentioned in the story
and, even more disturbingly, that the ring-post lockups were so easily
defeated. With over 900,000 cyclists in this city, the police, the
mayors office and the Toronto Bicycling Committee should be so alarmed
that immediate solutions be investigated. Unfortunately, the police
have nothing but contempt and hostility for cyclists and the allegedly
pro-bicycle Mayor's office and Toronto Bike Committee are so
short-sighted, inept and ineffective, cyclists should expect no
discernible reaction whatsoever.



http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Con...2154&t=TS_Home
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Old 08-09-06, 03:50 PM   #7
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If you have to leave your bikes for a long time, it might be worth hunting down a pair of poles 1 meter apart and using two locks, one on each pole. And make at least one of them a really good one.

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Old 08-09-06, 04:20 PM   #8
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The key phrase was "left wing", all talk, but no action when it really comes down to it.
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Old 08-09-06, 04:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maddyfish
The key phrase was "left wing", all talk, but no action when it really comes down to it.
I wouldn't agree with that. We, in Canada at least, have had some left-wing leaders with great vision and the ability to get things done. Tommy Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan, for one, invented universal health-care, the first Arts Board in North America and the first Bill of Rights, which later formed the backbone of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Our Mayor's politics are okay, IMO, but they're not balanced enough and he alienates too many folks and therefore is unable to achieve anything. He also completely lacks any true innovation and spirit. If he had a concept of what this great city could be and worked toward building it, he'd have the support. As it is, he is merely a pretender who will, hopefully, be out looking for a new job come the end of the year.
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Old 08-09-06, 05:52 PM   #10
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The key phrase was "left wing", all talk, but no action when it really comes down to it.
You mean like George Bush when it comes to securing our borders?
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Old 08-09-06, 05:57 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=EnigManiacIf he had a concept of what this great city could be and worked toward building it, he'd have the support. As it is, he is merely a pretender who will, hopefully, be out looking for a new job come the end of the year.[/QUOTE]

+1 I voted for him the last time out thinking he was our guy to take us places. It would seem he makes for a great booster, but certainly not a leader in any way shape of form. Hard to believe Mel did more simply by being a pain in higher gov'ts ass.

I lock up in a secured pass garage and would never leave my ride outside for the day. I lock up nowhere, unless I can physically see it.
Oh the irony of having your ride ripped outside police headquarters. Did they check Igor's?
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Old 08-09-06, 07:52 PM   #12
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What does George Bush, or Canada's Government, have to do with defective bicycle posts? That is offtopic and irrelevant. The people to blame are the designers of the defective posts.
We have post and ring locks here in Rochester. I've not heard or seen of any pried loose; guess the local bike thieves haven't figured that out yet.
I always prefer a strong grounded metal post to those things but I'm going to be using two locks (one a rather rare "Club for Bikes) when I tie mine up at a busy college library in a few weeks. At least there they have the old fashioned solid metal bike racks.
The best city bike racks I've ever seen were the ones made of solid steel; they are about 6 inches around and are shaped like a series of alternating up and down "U's". They might get through that with a saw, but not quickly, and certainly not with a two-by-four.
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Old 08-09-06, 07:58 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EnigManiac
Well, it wasn't my bike that was stolen, it was the reporter who was visiting police HQ whose bike was stolen. The picture of the snapped ring off the post that appeared in the paper was a disturbing image for me, however, because I use those ring-posts all the time. sometimes for several hours and my bikes are both rare and expensive.

I locked up my bike at one of those today so I could buy the Star. Sad when bikes outside the copshop can be lifted.
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Old 08-09-06, 08:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gizmocat
What does George Bush, or Canada's Government, have to do with defective bicycle posts? That is offtopic and irrelevant.
George is off topic. But the City of Toronto, i.e. our *municipal* government, with much fanfare, implimented the bike rings across the city over the last few years.

There is no way metal rings should be breaking from the force applied by a piece of wood. The city should have the manufacturer replace the defective rings with ones that can resist such a crude method of attack, if this story is true.
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Old 08-09-06, 08:53 PM   #15
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The fault lies with the manufacturer. The city is to be commended for purchasing what seemed to be a useful, well designed product. The manufacturer should be required to replace the defective items.
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Old 08-09-06, 08:57 PM   #16
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What if the thieves then switch from 2x4's to strong steel breaker bars? Arms race. Are you allowed to lock to other fixtures such as parking meters and streetlight poles?
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Old 08-09-06, 10:21 PM   #17
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Parking meters? Those are like head height, max.
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Old 08-09-06, 11:25 PM   #18
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The political talk was merely a side-issue as in how Mayor Miller, an admittedly left-wing politician (but dresses and looks like a right-winger) has mismanaged both his administration and the Toronto Bicycle program that has, to its' credit, installed ring-posts wherever the public has requested them. The problem with him, in relation to this issue, is that he will do nothing to address the vulnerability of peoples property that is locked to city property and that is his responsibility. I doubt he'll be contacting the manufacturer and demanding replacements for their weak ring-posts or committing an expenditure to replacing them in a timely fashion with a superior product. No, he'd rather stick by his spokespersons statement that they serve well for what they are intended for: short-term parking, and if you park at one, you take your chances with your property. With his office nor the Toronto Bicycle Committee nor the Police willing to take this issue seriously, we cyclists are, once again, left to our own devices. Is it any wonder we tend to be renegades, scofflaws and non-conformists when we get neither respect nor support from those who are either sworn to or claim to support us?
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Old 08-10-06, 03:25 AM   #19
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which is a better deterent? a u-lock(new kryptonite with real key not cylinder key) or heavy chain??
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Old 08-10-06, 04:12 AM   #20
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Both? I think the best deterent would be wire threaded through a cable lock, that's connected to a computer speaker dohicky that'll go off if the lock's cut. It may seem extreme, but if someone's "working" on a bike with bolt cutters and a crow bar, the last thing they want is attention.
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Old 08-10-06, 04:50 AM   #21
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Can anyone recommend a good brand of 'bicycle alarm'?
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Old 08-10-06, 07:14 AM   #22
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While alarms seem like a solution, I fear they would soon become as annoying as car-alarms that are ignored when they sound. Perhaps an imbedded chip, similar to On-Star, could be developed that tracks the location of bikes through a wireless communication system. Since the police seem to expend as little effort as possible in retrieving stolen bicycles, such a device might encourage them to actually take some action.
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Old 08-10-06, 07:29 AM   #23
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sorry for political hijack
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Old 08-10-06, 07:33 AM   #24
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Yes, an alarm would be pretty useless if they became commonplace, but for now I think they'd be an o.k. stopgap solution. But EnigManiac, your tracking idea is even better because the infrastructure and device are already present and easy to use. Mologogo.com offers a ~$100 kit that includes a prepaid cell with the GPS software on it, and for twenty cents a day, you can use the data service to always know where your bike/cell is. Just make sure it's charged and taped under the seat or something. I think you may even be able to turn that data service on and off daily, definitely monthly, so you may only be charged when you need it. Not exactly worthwhile for a $20 beater bike, but it's nice insurance for your brand new thousand+ dollar bike. And you can always use the cell phone as a cell phone too.

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Old 08-10-06, 07:38 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by operator
Parking meters? Those are like head height, max.
Why is that a problem when locking a bike to one?

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