html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Chris thought so, too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chris thought so, too.

It would make my life about 2 or 3% happier if I never had to lock my bike, could trust it would be wherever I parked it when I returned.


Anonymous Trieu said...

You could pretend the world was like that and never lock your bike. How often do you think it would actually be stolen?

Alternately put, how many stolen bikes would you spend to make your life 2-3% happier?

3:46 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I've thought about that. The problem is that it hurts so bad when your bike gets stolen. Seriously. It was worse than my car being stolen.

I could ride a beater that I don't mind losing. But then there is the cost of riding a not-smooth beater.

I could keep locking my bike.

I don't see me going in the direction of riding a bike I don't mind losing. I love my current ride, and Sage just turned her into a single speed. And I am still waiting for Sage to build my next bike (whose frame I've painted and accessories I've bought) and she is going to be the most beautiful bike in the world.

4:01 PM  
Blogger John said...

Socks are the larval form of wire coathangers. That's why, in the morning, you find a sock without its match to make a pair as your closet fills with wire coathangers.

Perhaps something similar happens with bikes. According to this story, a huge number of bikes end up abandoned on UC Davis.

UC Davis should abandon its abandoned bikes randomly around Sacramento. They could put a sign on the bike that says "Steal this."
This would distract the forces of evil that prey upon unlocked bikes.

With the beast fed, you could have your 3 percent happiness. Maybe.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous sasha said...

I would be 3-5% happier if I could depend on my bike being there when I got back even after I lock it.

Or, more accurately, I wish I didn't have to choose which bike I ride based on whether and where I had to lock it up outside.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

It really is not a trivial amount of increased happiness.

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

A wise woman once said:

That was a maddening part about discussing water use in the Klamath; that people started arguments from a different imaginary state. "But if it were totally different" they say, "wouldn't you prefer this?" That's a question that makes me blink a lot and tilt my head. It isn't different. Me, personally? I tend not to care what would happen if it were different.

So it's not that you don't care about imaginary hypothetical worlds, it's just that you want the ones where you can leave your bike unlocked, and not the ones the libertarians live in [Although there is some overlap - I'm pretty sure you could leave your bike unlocked in Heinlein's libertarian utopias, in part because theft was strongly punished, and that punishment was done by the citizenry at large, so it was far more certain]

4:26 PM  
Blogger harryh said...

Is this just specifically about bikes? Because ya, that's prolly about 2 or 3%. But what if it meant the world just didn't have the kind of people that stole bikes anymore? I bet there would be lots of other nice things about that world. Enough that my increased happiness could maybe be a lot more than 2 or 3 percent.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Megan said...


Eh. Or, I care enough about it to dash off a quick sentence, but not more. It isn't like I'm going to try to arrange that, or that I think policy should be based on it.

I suppose I could have phrased it differently, so that only the interesting part (my guess at how important it is to me) was left, but then, I usually trust my readers to pick out the important parts.


Not locking my house, with no corresponding fear, would feel great. But I'd only gone as far as guessing about the bike part. I don't really think of there being a "kind of people" who steal, but I would surely love to live in a world where no one did steal.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous D said...

until I got into the building I work in now, I have never locked my bike, because I never leave it outside. In my cube, sit's my trusty companion [since 1982]... in stores, all through college, everywhere. And then? This new building we moved to wrote in the contract that bikes cannot be in the building, they must be locked up outside. So I went and bought a bike lock. And waxed my bike to apologise for the affront. Truly I think I started doing this in response to the last time I got my bike stolen all those years ago...

so, carry your bike with you if you can, and offer it presents when you can't, and may your tires always be full of air...

4:50 PM  
Anonymous quirkybook said...

You are so right. I was not just hurt when my last bike got stolen, but actually physically *angry*. I didn't buy another bike for a whole year, because I kept on hoping that the previous one -- the one I'd inherited from a beloved aunt, on which I'd learned to navigate Harvard Square and the other crazy Boston roads, and on which I had spent hundreds of dollars transporting from the East Coast to California -- would show up again.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did have a strange bike-stealing experience once though. Turns out during the post-school-year sweep, the school removed any bikes left locked up outside the student buildings and donated them. I never saw any of the signs that said this was going to happen. So, I went away (for only a few days, not the whole summer). And came back to No Bike. And was told it had been donated, and I could not get it back.

I just hoped that some kid somewhere was very very happy with my bike.

It was 3 years before I bought myself a new bike. I was stupid for waiting so long.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Jess said...

I don't really think of there being a "kind of people" who steal, but I would surely love to live in a world where no one did steal.

To be clear, I park my bike in various places around town, so I also have a strong interest in no one stealing bikes, or at least my bike, to which I am emotionally attached. But at some level I consider theft to be a relief valve of sorts for the pseudocapitalist manufactured-consumer economy in which we live. The poor must have something to hold over our heads, if they are to have any autonomy.

This isn't abstract for me, because I live in Honolulu, which may be the "whatever-they-can-carry-off" theft capital of the USA. I didn't always lock my bike in my previous environs around Pasadena, but I do now. Everything that isn't locked up, and many things that are, get stolen in all non-gated neighborhoods. Every construction site has 24-hour armed guards.

This weekend, as I was cleaning and lubricating my bike in the parking lot next to my apartment building, a scraggly-looking fellow rode up on a brand-new Giant to which he had appended an improvised trailer. In the ensuing conversation, I got the "street" perspective on many topics. The most striking was this: that everyone in his circle knows my bike and knows where I park it (off the street, on a rack under shelter, but accessible and a bit too private), and that he had advocated on numerous occasions that it not be stolen. I could have taken this as the opening gambit in some sort of protection scam, but I didn't.

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 - 3% seems low. I've had my current favorite bike since 1988...I have very strong feelings for it.

I'm still angry about the only bike I've ever had stolen, and that was in 1977. I'm not crazy angry in general, but bikes are different.

A4, still unhappy that the one bike I have ever sold ended up with a sociologist.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

Why would it give you so much pleasure? Is locking inconvenient? Or do you object to having to think about theft at all? Would being able to leave your money in a public place give you more pleasure?

9:08 PM  
Blogger 3pointshooter said...

I live in Toronto, which is notorious for its bike thievery. There is a healthy contingent of cyclists here, and nobody, but nobody, would ever dream of not locking a bike - even the world's biggest beater bikes get locked.

I've only been here a couple years, and I only recently dared buy a bike. This reluctance was a combination of Toronto's reputation, as well as my dismal history of having bikes stolen. I think I'm at about 10 for my life. The one that really hurt (most were my fault for not, or poorly, locking up), and which caused me to go years between replacement, was my last bike: I had it locked to a bikerack in the basement of a secure apartment building; someone broke in, cut all the bike locks, and made off with about 15 bikes, including mine...

So I definitely understand the non-trivial happiness that would occur from not having to lock my bike. Actually, it wouldn't be from not having to lock my bike, but from the absence of anxiety of having it stolen (which I continue to suffer even though I religiously lock it).

12:40 AM  
Blogger Noel said...

In Merrye London Towne we used two or three locks to keep eager little hands away. 'course you had to chain up both wheels and definitely your saddle if it had suspension. I kinda liked being an urban warrior taking on the mean streets with nothing but a D-lock and and a long chain. I also heard that a good chunky lock was one's best friend for beating taxis (not taxi drivers), the sworn enemy of cyclists.

In my current residence all the bikes are locked with pathetically thin chains (just one per bike!) that my London bike and I sneer at.

Moving to more interesting topics, how often do people replace their chain and/or gear train? I think mine could do with a change but I'm unsure.

3:02 AM  
Anonymous ptm said...

Using beater bikes doesn't help with the happiness. It means that you're out less cash if they're stolen, but you bond with em just as much. However, you can make them smooth, it just takes love.

Noel - email me. It depends on the type of bike, type and quantity of riding, caliber of parts, etc.

Megan - could you delete my email address from above in a couple days?

6:36 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Sure thing, ptm.

7:13 AM  
Anonymous scottb said...

I am firmly committed to not locking stuff.

I don't lock my cars (vintages: 1985, 1973) since I really don't think they are theft targets. I am puzzled at the level of ingrained habit most people have for locking their cars. Anyone know what actual theft rates are? Why bother?

I often forget to lock up the house at night. Our side garage door is almost always unlocked. And back when we lived up in the Sierra foothills, we never locked the house. I remember looking hard for the keys when we were moving out and needed to give house keys to the folks managing it for us...

It's a lifestyle choice. Really, I'm just rebelling against my mom, who has like 6 locks and an alarm system which she uses any time she leaves the house. Carrying that much fear around feels almost debilitating...

9:47 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Scott, I absolutely wish I had the trust to live like that. I would really love it. That's not how my risk assessment runs, though.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

"It's a lifestyle choice... Carrying that much fear around feels almost debilitating..."

I find this perplexing, certainly one can lock up without living in fear. For example, I brush my teeth without living in fear of tooth decay or ensuing heart disease. I don't spend much time thinking about it at all, and would do so even if I lived in a world where it didn't make your mouth feel cleaner. Similarly, I don't feel oppressed by not being able to leave my wallet, checkbook, or ATM card and password just lying around.

Why do some of you equate taking basic preventive precautions with deep terror of theft? Are all your preventive precautions in your lives motivated by deep fear of the consequences? That seems far more oppressive to me.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous D said...

"I am puzzled at the level of ingrained habit most people have for locking their cars." - scottb

now THAT's insightfull... because, why IS it a habit? I dunno how many people are like me, but "It ain't the years kid, it's the mileage." I have lived in big cities and small towns in several regions of the country, so experiences pile up, hence I take them with me. I don't do a threat assessment based on where I live, I just have security habits that I have always used, and they are generally a compromise on conveneince. When I step out of my car, may hand locks the door. There is little or no thought involved and I don't wonder what kind of neighborhood I am in. Yes, there are certainly people who will not be deterred by such systems, but every level I protect decreases the odds that anyone would bother. Same with the windows on my apartment, since I live on the first floor.

I don't trouble myself overmuch that I can't trust every single person... I just trust people on principle, and let my precautions take care of those who are not... but perhaps it is because I have lived places where this was a requirement, and always carry that experience with me...

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A car is a tough call. If you lock it and someone wants your stereo, you're out a stereo and a window. If you don't lock it, you're just out a stereo.

I don't have a stereo in my car, so I don't lock it.

If you have a fancy new car (why?), then you have to worry about someone stealing the whole thing, and that's different. Door locks won't help much there.


11:43 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I hate incompetent car thieves. Take the stereo if you must, but I hate hate hate the ones who break your lock and window too.

Since giving up my car a year ago, I have been surprised how much I used to worry about people fucking with it (having had several car break-ins and a car stolen). I still wake up when the drunks go past my window at 2 on Fridays and Saturday nights and get a rush of relief that I don't have a car out there. It has been one of the most constant improvements in my quality of life since I stopped having a car. I had no idea that it mattered to me and I didn't predict it at all, but it has been one of the best things about not owning a car. Better than not paying insurance, but not as good as being forced onto a bike (which always improves my mood).

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel equally defensive about ski theft, though it seems most people lock them up far less than bikes.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Noel said...

Regarding ptm's offer to help -- I've emailed so the email address can be deleted.

6:17 AM  

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