the way you made me feel : west mission,  san francisco (2013)

It's no secret that bike theft is rampant in this city. You've undoubtedly seen countless frames with missing components or all-together abandoned u-locks attached to racks without a bike in sight. More often than not, the stolen goods ends up on Craigslist, in chop shops, or found at a Bay Area flea market.

Over the past few months, the San Francisco Police Department has become more invested in the issue of bike theft. Officer Matt Friedman who heads up the Twitter handle @SFPDBikeTheft has been instrumental in reporting theft and recovering the stolen bicycles. It's nice to see the SFPD taking the issue so seriously.

But there's also network of local cyclists dedicated to the effort. People like Jenny Oh Hatfield have taken matters into their own hands to help fellow cyclists recover their swiped bikes. I stumbled upon her Flickr account Bicycles at Bay Area Flea Markets last night and was instantly impressed. The account is a visual database of the bike inventory at Laney College, Oakland Coliseum, and Ashby BART flea markets that anyone can access, and anyone can contribute photos to. 

I contacted Jenny to ask her more about her efforts. She told me she created the Flickr page last year after her own bicycle was recovered at the Laney College flea market. She knew "it would be a helpful visual resource for others to use and contribute to on an ongoing basis." I immediately thought of how invaluable this page would've been years ago when my friend Patrick spent months scouring each flea market in search of his bike. He eventually found it, but lost so many weekends in the process.

Jenny explained that she's joined forces with Officer Friedman, Laney College, managers of the flea market, Alameda County law enforcement, and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition to focus on "working on reforming how bikes are sold at [Laney College] flea market". If you have recovered a stolen bicycle at Laney College, you can help in the effort by filling out this short survey.

She also created a Google group called Stolen Bicycles Bay Area because "there wasn't a cohesive effort in place for people to get information about prevention and recovery of stolen bicycles... The intro page has a ton of information, and people who've had bikes stolen can post within the group." Jenny also uses the power of social media to share widely with the bike community. After talking with her, I realized I've seen many friends' bicycles returned due in large part to her help.

Locking your bike correctly is the first step to preventing bike theft. But the realities are, your bike is susceptible regardless. Thanks to folks like Jenny Oh Hatfield and Officer Friedman, you've got a few more people and resources to help in the unfortunate circumstance that your bike is stolen. 

Photo courtesy of Torbakhopper