Many people have had their bicycle stolen. This is one of the main reasons people stop cycling. An integrated plan is needed, covering actions by the police, the justice system, the creation of a central depot and an efficient registration system, and awareness-raising as to how to lock a bike securely with a solid lock. (Cycling priority)
Bike theft from public places is a sad reality, and it’s a big and growing problem in Brussels. A survey of 500 cyclists in 2010 found that over one-third had been victims of bike theft or vandalism. The slow and often nonchalant police and the justice system have a lot of work to do to catch up with action taken in other European cities. One day you will be able to buy a bike that can’t be stolen. But in the meantime, there is a lot you can do to minimise the risk of losing your bike to criminals.
Protect your bicycle from three kinds of theft:
- Opportunity theft of unlocked bikes by people walking nearby.
- For this purpose any kind of simple lock works. Although cable locks are easily cut and are discouraged, but still they prevent grab-and-go.
- Lock both the front and back wheel, and possibly your saddle.
- Optionally you can use security bolts for the wheels and saddle, like Pitlock.de, or Abus Nut.
- These locks prevent drunk party people having fun steeling your front wheel or saddle, children playing with things they should not play with, tourists trying their chances. Or such a lock would would have prevented the walk-away by an 80 year old grandpa with the 5000€ mountain bike of my friend in front of a suburban bike shop, while he was discussing about hydraulic brakes inside.
- Theft of grab-and-go casual thieves.
- These thieves usually work in pairs or in trio, one cuts the lock, and the other runs away with the bicycle. They mostly have simple tools, like a strong wrench, a saw, or a bigger bolt cutter.
- Invest in a strong lock, which usually cost between 70-100 Euro. U-locks will make it harder for thieves, and a 13 mm diameter U-lock can only be cut with an angle grinder.
- Use two U-locks, or a U-lock and security bolts. These usually steer away casual thieves, and they look for an easier prey.
- Make sure the lock doesn’t touch the ground. If the lock or chain touches the ground, it makes it easier to be cut with a bolt cutter. Why? Try cutting a chain with a bolt cutter, and you’ll see!
- Organized theft
- These thieves pinpoint your bicycle, and wait for the opportunity to steel it. This type of theft cannot be prevented by locks. All bicycle locks can be picked with simple tools in 1-2 minutes (costs 50€ on ebay), or can be cut with a battery powered angle grinder (costs 100€ in Brico). Do you think we are exaggerating? Google for “brand-name lock-picking”, and in a few minutes you find the youtube tutorial on how to pick your lock.
- Buy a theft insurance for your bicycle. These can be bought when you buy a new bike with a lock, and they reimburse 80% of the original price towards a new bike purchase. The theft can be declared on-line at policeonweb.belgium.be.
- Get your bike marked (“gravage antivol”) with an official number. This helps to claim your bike in the rare case if it is found. For more information visit Pro Vélo.
General precautions to do all the time:
- Use the institutions’ garages and other secure parking. Parking your bicycle in front of the buildings is faster, but less secure.
- Use fixed-to-the-ground items to lock your bike. Avoid:
- Avoid street signs that can be removed
- Avoid street posts without a sign on the top – the bike can lifted up by standing on a box
- Avoid U-shape rails (arceau-en-U) that are fixed with bolts to the ground, like those near Berlaymont’s entrance
- Avoid weak trees
- Aim for direct sight visibility, and watch your bike from the window of the café, peek at your bike from the terrace of the appartment. Avoid leaving your bike unattended in public places, especially in the evening, even if it is locked.
- In the unfortunate event that you are a victim of bike theft:
- make sure you report it to the police in person or online (it only works if you have Belgian ID card with a chip) and
- on the Brussels Bike Theft Blog, and
- let the EUCG Committee know.
- You can search the police database to see whether it has been recovered.
- If you hire a service bike and it’s stolen on work premises always report the theft to your security officer.
- Buy a folding bicycle, and keep it in your office and apartment – of course, still locked in your office.
- Have several bicycles, and use your cheap-old-ugly bike in case you need to leave it unattended for long.
- For electric bikes, remove the head-unit from the handlebar, and if you park the bike for several hours, also remove the battery. The head-unit costs 100+ €, the battery costs 6-800€.
Are you witnessing a crime?
- We suggest not to intervene directly. The last thing you want that some crazy people stab you with a knife, or worse, rob you?! No bike is worth a kidney operation, or a year of therapy to recover from the trauma of being attacked.
- Instead pull away to a safe distance, and call the police on 112. Let the operator control the conversation. Stay on-line until the police arrives, or the operator hangs up.
- The police will probably ask for the following details:
- Type of crime (automobile theft, assault, etc.)
- Location of the crime (street address and cross streets.)
- Description of suspects (height; build; color of eyes, hair and skin; clothing and disguises; special marks or unusual features such as scars and tattoos; and weapons, tools or vehicles used).
- Description of property or person(s) being subjected to criminal activity
Do you still think bike theft won’t happen to you?