Wheels of Justice
Shortly after moving to San Francisco, you learn a few things.
First, driving here sucks. You're almost always better off without a car. The second thing you learn, Muni is never on time. There are only so many times you can look at Next Bus before it makes you hail a cab, which defeats the purpose of public transportation. Last thing you learn is that BART, the most "efficient" mode of transportation, barely touches the city. It’s great for those lazy hipsters who take it one stop to and from 16th and 24th, not so much if you want to get out to the Richmond, Sunset, or other SF BFE.
Unless you have the patience of a saint or enjoy spending your day on the bus or waiting for BART, you eventually get a bike. You ride it everywhere. It gets you from point A to point B faster than every other mode of transportation within these 49 square miles. You love the shit out of it. Then in a blink of an eye, that shit gets stolen. What you are about to read is a story you have heard a thousand times. Bikes in SF get stolen all the time, but there is one fundamental difference with this story.
I got my shit back.
What you are about to read is a timeline of events. Names and places were changed to protect the guilty. OK, not really.
5:30 p.m.: Park bike on Valencia with a U-lock around a parking meter. Go in to a liquor store to order a sandwich.
5:45 p.m.: The "Oh fuck" moment: Bike is stolen.
5:50 p.m.: Stare at lock at the bottom of the parking meter in disbelief for five minutes, absolutely silent. Congratulate thief: "Fucking bravo. You gamed the system. You know how to cleanly pick a U-lock."
5:55 p.m.: After staring at lock for another couple of minutes, come to senses and drag lazy ass to the police station a couple of blocks away to file a report.
6:15 p.m.: Finish police report and head to Dolores Park, where everyone who has a bike is there (my own private fucking hell).
8:00 a.m.: Wake up from a horrible nightmare that my bike has been stolen. Realize it has. Curse at the fish in the aquarium for 10 minutes.
8:15 a.m.: After sulking for another five minutes, jump onto Craiglist and search for stolen bike.
8:16 a.m.: Find a suspicious ad with one photo. There are only a couple details of the bike, but the time the ad was posted – at 5:30 in the morning (who's ever that excited to sell a bike?) – makes me think it might be mine.
8:18 a.m.: Text, call, email the seller. Must. Make. Contact. A.S.A.P.
10:00 a.m.: Seller responds to text. Ask for more pictures of bike in ad.
2:15 p.m.: Receive pictures. Recognize features only my bike would have.
BAM! It’s my bike!
2:30 p.m.: Call the police (with case number from last night in hand) and let them know I have found my bike.
5:30 p.m.: Three hours have passed, cops still a no-show. Start drinking heavily. Text seller that I will pay above asking price and hope to god he doesn't sell it.
10:15 a.m.: Contact police again. This time, they show up at my house in 15 minutes.
10:30 a.m.: Give police all the information on the seller (address, name, email, and picture) along with reasons why it would be my bike.
11:15 a.m.: Start to set up an appointment with seller to get bike after he’s back from church (to pray for his sins?). Wait in anticipation, biting my nails, hoping he’ll still have my bike.
1:30 p.m.: Seller contacts me and we set up a meeting point. Head out with the cops to the location.
2:00 p.m.: Cops pose as me and arrest seller on sight. Serial number from my records and the one on the bike match.
2:05 p.m.: Feel fucking over the moon. Never let the bike out of my sight again.
Do It Yourself
Sweet sweet redemption! I got my bike back and I nabbed the thief! Like I was saying before, my story doesn’t start off very differently from most anyone else’s who’s had a bike jacked. But, mine has a happy ending. Follow these tips and you're more likely to have one too.
1. Lock up your shit!
I'm not just talking about one U-lock. I'm talking about wheel locks, a ball bearing in your seat post, the whole shebang. If you can have a vicious dog guarding your bicycle at all times, don't think twice, just do it. My bike had most of this already. But wait, it still got stolen? Yes it did, but with all that extra stuff the thief wasn’t able to break the bike apart and sell it for parts, which a lot of thieves do.
2. Save your records
When you buy a bike from a bicycle shop, the store usually gives you paperwork along with your receipt. Save it! This has your serial number, which you can use to identify your bike or anything else that gets stolen. Don’t have the paperwork? Flip your bike over and you’ll find the number etched into the bike where the seat tube and down tube connect on the frame. You can thank me later.
3. Break out your police badge and do the detective work.
So your shit got stolen? Don't just sit there and give up. Start looking. Jump on Craigslist, scour the streets. Your bike will probably turn up somewhere, so you need to start looking in the right place. I was lucky enough to find the bike on Craigslist and take swift action. Keep checking every day. Once you've found your bike, get as much information about the seller and the bike.
4. Don't go all Dirty Harry by yourself. Get the police involved… from the beginning.
Do yourself a favor: if your bike is stolen, drop everything and go to police station, where you can file a report. Once you are armed with all the knowledge about the seller from all your grade-A detective work, it’s time to collaborate with the police. Trust me. Don't bring a knife to a gunfight. God forbid, you read this article and think you can take on the world all by yourself. You could get yourself into some serious trouble. With all the information, the police will help you arrest the seller. You're making their job easier and they will appreciate it.
5. Never give up.
Last thing you should know: Keep checking for your bike. Don't become a victim. Nothing is sweeter than getting your bike back or arresting the thief. OK, maybe a few things.
Now go out there and reclaim those streets. Stop being afraid, and when you do get your bike back, for the love of god, watch where you're biking!