I go to school in Washington DC, which has a very high crime rate. Bikes there, even on campus, are snatched up within minutes, if they aren't locked up.
I'm just a beginner at biking. I've only ever owned wal-mart mountain bikes (which I've nearly never used off a road). This year, I want to get a bike for riding around the city (for errands, for trips to a metro station, etc), and for exercise. Unfortunately, I don't know which bike to get.
I will be riding only on pavement, but the bike should be able to handle uneven pavement (there are a few cobblestoned roads nearby), sand (from sanding the streets in the winter), and whatever weather I happen to be riding in.
I've narrowed my search down to fitness/commuter bikes. (I'm reluctant to get a mountain bike, since I won't be doing any real mountain biking, and because they won't be the best for longer rides and exercise.) I like the idea of the straight handlebars, mostly because I've never used drop bars before, and because I hear you need to be mostly upright to keep a good eye on traffic. I am considering the Giant FCR3w, the Trek 7.3FX, and the Specialized Sirrus (possibly the women's model). These are at the upper limits of my price range. What do you think? Would these be good bikes for what I have described?
I am nervous about buying a new bike, because of how much theft goes on in the area (or in college campuses in general), and because they could be less expensive. I was considering looking at some used bikes (with Craigslist, probably), but I don't know which types are good, or how to check that they're in good condition. I don't really want to have to put in too much maintenance--that would just discourage me from riding, since classes don't give me much extra time. Should I still go for a used bike? How would I go about that?
I'm basically looking for any tips or advice anyone wants to give me. Thanks so much!