Bicycles in Halifax have an unpleasant tendency to vanish. In a town where there’s a constant demand for cheap bicycles for university students, those who ride bikes have to keep them safe from thieves—even on Dalhousie campus. According to Const. Pierre Bourdages of the Halifax Regional Police, there have been 211 reported bike thefts in 2012, up from 165 in 2011.
Evan Webster, a 19-year-old University of King’s College student, experienced bike theft first-hand in October of last year. Webster locked his bike to a tree in front of the computer science building before a night class.
“The bike rack near the building was full of bikes,” said Webster. “There was a tree just past the bike rack, so I locked it to that with a coil lock through the wheel and the frame. There were other bikes attached to trees in the area, so I didn’t think anything of it.”
His bike was gone when he emerged from the building.
“It was secure,” said Webster. “The only way someone could have taken it was if they had the equipment.”
Webster can point to certain mistakes on his part that led to the theft.
“There were parking meters and parked cars in the way,” said Webster. “There was no view from the other side of the street.”
But for Alex Schwass, a Dal student, visibility didn’t matter. Although he let a friend borrow his bike, he insists it was locked to a bike rack.
“It was mid-afternoon, outside the Rowe Building. It was in broad daylight,” said Schwass.
“It should be safe to lock your bike outside of the building you go to class,” he said.
Both bikes were unregistered. The chance of recovering a stolen bike is already dismal, but a serial number presents at least a sliver of hope in the event that the police or Dal Security retrieve it, said Bourdages.
Andrew Dacanay, an employee at Cyclesmith, has advice for those who are looking to keep their bikes safe.
“When it comes to locking a bike,” said Dacanay, “three things matter. How you lock your bike, where it’s locked, and what it’s locked with.”
“When you lock your bike, lock it to something that’s bolted to the ground, or something that can’t be moved. I had a friend who locked his bike to a sapling, and a thief just lifted it up from the sapling.”
Dacanay also knows about locks. Some types, such as cable locks, can be cut with bolt cutters easily. A U-type lock, while more expensive, is much harder to break or cut through.
“You can get through a U-lock with an angle grinder, but most thieves don’t carry those around with them,” said Dacanay.
Dacanay also said bikes are often sold for parts, so ensuring that a bike is properly locked is even more important than the type of lock you use.
“You could have the world’s most secure lock, but if you don’t lock your bike correctly, it doesn’t matter,” said Dacanay.
“We see a lot of people who lock their bikes through the front wheel and lose the back halves of their bikes. You have to lock the bike through the frame. It’s ideal to have a U-lock and a cable lock, so you can lock the frame and the rear wheel to the bike rack.”
And for Dacanay, ensuring the safety of his bike is a constant process.
“I’ve ridden bikes for more than 25 years, and I used to be a bike messenger in London,” said Dacanay. “I still look at my bike after I park it to make sure that it’s locked properly.”