Resourceful thieves sabotaging bike racks
Riders locking cycles to altered, non-secure structures
WATCH out for altered bike racks, a cycling advocate says, after local riders have posted online warnings of security structures damaged by would-be thieves to make pilfering bicycles easier.
One such rack had been cut or sawed at St. Boniface-area strip mall Dominion Centre, with the cut masked with a piece of tape, one post said in an online group focused on preventing Winnipeg bike thefts.
On Wednesday afternoon, the damaged rack remained, but no cyclists stopped to lock up.
Mark Cohoe, executive director of advocacy organization Bike Winnipeg, said he hadn’t personally encountered that specific method of thievery, but noted he’s heard of people damaging racks to ease such thefts.
“Sometimes, you might get a rack or a post that’s been unbolted… I haven’t seen it personally, but I’ve heard… where racks are either partially cut or they’re cut through,” he said Wednesday.
“In some ways, it’s not surprising — I’ve seen it on social media in other cities, and the tools are here, but I don’t know if it’s widespread.”
Bike theft, however, is widespread in Winnipeg, with city data suggesting as many as 2,000 bicycles reported stolen a year, but far fewer returned to rightful owners.
Cohoe said he’s also heard of bolts being removed from the base of racks, allowing the rack to be removed from the sidewalk or ground, or a rack being cut most of the way through, allowing a thief to break it with a hammer and slip off a bike’s lock with ease.
The advocate, who's had many bikes stolen over the years, said if someone spots a damaged rack, they should report it to the business that owns it or the City of Winnipeg.
“But ultimately, we need to have more racks out there and have better enforcement to make sure we’re installing racks in good places, too, to ensure they’re in visible places where it’s a little harder to do that and maybe a quicker response if someone notices it has been vandalized… or prepared for easier theft,” Cohoe said.
More short-term street parking and long-term bicycle storage programs need to be developed, he added.
“Like into apartment buildings, into workplaces, places where if a bike’s going to be stored on a regular basis, that it’s much more protected than where it’s just sitting out, and ultimately a grinding tool will get to it fairly quickly.”
The advocate recommended cyclists choose parking spots in visible locations with foot traffic, and to check bike racks by physically shaking them to ensure it is secured, before locking the frame and a wheel of the bike to the rack.
Frequent bike thefts in the city have dissuaded some from cycling more frequently, he said.
“If you assume your bike’s going to get stolen, you’re not going to take it out there. And the reality is, people are getting their bikes stolen,” said Cohoe, adding he would like to see Winnipeg police assign an investigator to focus specifically on bike thefts, as well as online platforms to crack down on illicit sales.