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Five Easy Steps to Getting Over it When Your Bike Gets Stolen

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By Emma Webster

Welcome to the Bay. Now say goodbye to your bike.

If you live in the Bay Area, your bike WILL at some point be stolen. If you are reading this and you’re like, “Naaaah, not me, I know how to keep my baby safe,” THEN THIS IS FOR YOU!

You cannot keep your bike safe. Notice this article isn’t titled: “How to not get your bike stolen.” That is impossible and even I cannot teach the impossible. If you really, really, really don’t like the idea of getting your bike stolen, is a great place to browse rentals in other cities (or maybe other states), because you’re going to be relocating. Otherwise, you’re going to have to learn how to suck up the loss and move on.

As someone who has recently had her THIRD bike stolen in two years, I get it — moving on ain’t easy. But rest assured, it gets easier each time, and if we’re lucky we’ll someday live in a world where theft doesn’t exist! Yes, that’s unlikely, but just about as unlikely as not getting your bike stolen.

Next time you come back from your workout or grocery shopping and find your bike vanished without a trace, follow these steps to healthily and quickly move on with your life:

  1. Don’t buy an expensive bike to begin with. Just don’t. I don’t care how many locks you have or how rarely you park it on the street, you cannot protect your bike. Keep this in mind when shopping around. If you INSIST on getting an expensive bike, get insurance ASAP.
  2. Don’t try to find your bike once it’s gone.

You can’t find it. You won’t find it. It’s gone.

The woes of a stolen bike. Photo by Lance Grandahl/Unsplash.

It’s already in six different parts across six different neighborhoods throughout the Bay. If you have insurance (which you really should; see point 1), you should file a police report just to get your money back. Beyond that, don’t put any more time or energy into it.

Don’t try to find video footage of the theft. All you’ll get out of that is what you already know; someone stole your bike. Looking at fuzzy footage of a stranger’s face cutting through your “100 percent theft-proof” lock will not help you find the thief or the bike.

Don’t look for it on Craigslist. Don’t put up flyers. Don’t go to flea markets. Sure, there’s a small chance you’ll find it in those places, but a more likely scenario is that you’ll waste your energy and become more frustrated each time you don’t find it where you hope it will be. Have you ever tried searching for bikes for sale on Craigslist? It takes HOURS. There is literally one bike for sale per every two blocks. Now multiply that by every neighborhood in San Francisco and the East Bay, and you have…a lot of bikes.

Just because your bike was stolen in Oakland doesn’t mean it’s being resold in Oakland. It’s probably in Fremont or the Inner Sunset by now.

I Googled several iterations of “find stolen bike East Bay” after my last bike was stolen, and what I found was a hodgepodge of websites where you can scroll through hundreds of photos of recovered bikes and advice on where you can spend hundreds of your minutes driving from flea market to flea market to recover your bike.

Save your mental energy and just accept that it’s gone.

Treat the experience of your bike being stolen like a breakup. You want a clean slate. No more talking about your bike, no more thinking about your bike, no more stalking your bike online. It’s over. No amount of time spent on the Internet will change that fact.

  1. Know that you are not alone.

Statistically, 95 percent of bike owners in the Bay have their bikes stolen each year. JK, I don’t have actual stats for that, but I’d bet it’s somewhere around there. The point is, everyone has their baby stolen at some point. You are not the only victim; in fact, you are far from it. It sucks, but we’ve all been there — you’re not special. Sympathy for your situation will last no longer than five minutes.

  1. Have a backup bike.

This might seem excessive and expensive, but if you followed my advice in point 1 (don’t spend too much on a bike), it shouldn’t cost THAT much. You can easily buy two cheap bikes and ride only one. Once the first gets stolen, you don’t have to fret because you have the backup. But please note, this really only works if you have access to bike storage somewhere INSIDE your apartment building.

Stolen bike. Photo by Vin on the Move/Flickr.

  1. Buy yourself a drink. You deserve it.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t own a bike in the Bay. Biking, especially in the East Bay, is a super fun and efficient way to get around. I’m just saying don’t invest; don’t get attached. Don’t customize the colors and details. Don’t go to one of those specialty shops where you pay $1,000 extra just to have pink wheels. If you have some sort of heirloom bike that was your father’s or your grandfather’s or has some sort of sentimental value, don’t use that one. Just don’t.

Get yourself a cheap, basic, rideable bike (I suggest a road bike), and don’t give it a name.

And, when it does get stolen; get over it.**

**If you have successfully recovered your stolen bike by any of the methods I said to avoid above, please refrain from telling me about it. I’m still bitter.



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