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How to Prevent Your Bike From Being Stolen

Patch talks shop with two of Chicago's leaders in bike theft prevention and action.

As Winnetka Park District the North Shore's bikeway system, others around the Chicagoland area strategize ways to keep your bike safe.

Howard Kaplan, 48, started the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry in 2006. According to the Chicago Tribune, the number of listings for stolen bikes on the website skyrocked from the hundreds to the thousands in the past few years. The occupational therapist said he created the website as an educational tool to teach cyclists how to avoid bicycle theft, and it has evolved into a way to retrieve your bike as well.

Meanwhile, Chicago resident Julie Hochstadter learned a thing or two after someone stole her bicycle in Lincoln Park one spring afternoon. Her bike has since been retrieved. The Highland Park and Northbrook native is now director of The Chainlink, a community website for Chicago cyclists.

Today, both Kaplan and Hochstadter share some trusty tips they've learned since becoming pedal-pushing activists.

1. Throw out the cable lock.

"The most common mistake is using a cable lock. Generally, if you use a U-lock you're not going to get your bike stolen," Kaplan said.

2. Tie your bike to secure places.

The bike rack at Hochstadter's office isn't bolted to the ground, which, she said, poses a risk. "Park your bike in high traffic areas, where people can watch what's happening," she said.

Hochstadter added that signs warning of camera patrol also work as disincentives to thievery.

3. Record your serial number.

"An amazing number of people don't have the serial numbers from their bikes," said Kaplan, referring to the unique ID number stamped onto each bike. "Sometimes it's impossible to claim your bike without that number."

4. Watch out for portable, battery-operated power tools.

Both Kaplan and Hochstadter noted the rise in bike thefts due to increasing availability of convenient, discreet power tools. People can quickly break through U-locks with power tools.

"Police in Winnetka and Wilmette have done a huge service to Chicago by locking up the thieves [who had been using this tactic]," said Kaplan. In 2011, the police departments teamed up to catch bike thieves.

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5. Lock your bike.

It seems obvious, but too often people opt to leave their bike's fate to chance, Kaplan. He described how one of his Wilmette biking buddies opts not to lock his bike because the bike is insured and he can get a new one with relative ease.

"I remind him that even if losing a bicycle is not terribly devastating, you're still enabling bike thieves to maintain a livelihood."

If you're looking for inspiration to hit the road, check out the tips in The New York Times from a 70-year-old cyclist. By the way, the New Yorker uses a Krypton U-lock.

Learn about the proper attire for your winter rides at http://bikewinter.org, or stop by the Chicago Bike Swap on March 3.

Pablo February 22, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I agree with that U-Lock. It is horrible. When I first got my bike, I hardly parked in a public place if I didn't see where I could safely secure it and I got a chain lock. I went here: http://2wheelbikes.com/resource.html, and that gave me a lot of info.

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