Did you lock your bike?

In small towns, people seem to think it’s okay to leave their bikes unlocked. But like leaving your keys in your car or leaving your front door open, you do those things at your own peril. I used to leave my bike unlocked until the day I went to get it to ride home and it was gone. It showed up a few days later a few blocks away on another bike rack, but I was lucky. Stolen bikes usually disappear and are never found.

Did you lock your bike? sticker - Provincetown Bicycle Committee
“Did you lock your bike?” reminders on bike racks in Provincetown.

Bicycle theft is a crime of opportunity. The bike that’s unlocked is the one that will go missing. You don’t need the biggest, baddest bike lock to deter a thief. You probably don’t need two locks like urban bike folks recommend in places like New York where thieves have power tools to cut through just about anything.

Here are the most common types of locks used around here:

Cable lock. Cables come in all shapes and sizes, with varying lengths and thicknesses and either a combination or key lock. I use combination locks since I don’t like to carry yet another key with me. Long cables are better than short so you can pull it through both the wheel and the frame when locking to just about anything (even a tree or telephone pole, though that’s against local regulations).

cable locks - good
A cable lock through the front wheel and frame in Provincetown.

Chain lock. Chains are harder to cut than cables, but they’re heavy and expensive.

chain lock
A chain lock through a front wheel in Provincetown.

There are a few that are seen occasionally:

U-lock. These locks are common in urban areas, but they don’t work well on the schoolyard-style (wheelbender) bike racks that are everywhere. They’re fine when you’re locking up to a post on an inverted U rack or a street sign pole.

Frame lock. These are common on Dutch bicycles, so you see them on imported bicycles like Gazelles, Workcycles, or cargo bikes that are European-made. They’re not very secure, but they meet the basic deterrent requirements since you can’t turn the wheel when the lock is engaged. I like these since the lock itself can’t be stolen and you can’t leave home without it since it’s attached to the bike. A chain or cable lock can be added to lots of these to make them more secure.

Frame Lock
A frame lock secures through the rear wheel with a metal bar to keep the bike from moving.

Regardless of the type of lock, it’s important to actually attach the bike securely to the bike rack. It’s important to lock through the frame and through a wheel to deter theft. Here’s an example of a cable lock that could easily be removed:

cable locks - bad
This cable lock could be easily removed from the handlebars without cutting the lock.

All you need to do is slide the cable off the handlebars to steal this bike!

As John Waters has said, “Two things get stolen in Provincetown — boyfriends and bicycles.” He has lots of experience with both, so I’d heed his warning and encourage everyone to lock their bikes.