Sunday, November 30, 2008


You finally did it, Congratulations. You curbed your car and reached for a greener alternative; you have joined the ranks of 'Bike Commuter'.

But how do you keep your ride from being 'recycled' while you sit in your cubicle at work? Arming yourself with a few simple tools will make your bike less vulnerable and your mind more at ease.

Be prepared. Take a picture of your bike and record the serial number. If you ever need to report a bike stolen these will be the first items the Police Department asks for. Also, if you are looking to report the theft for tax purposes and you have put money into upgrading parts, BE SPECIFIC. Your ten year old bike will be greatly depreciated in the police report, so if it has a new $100 seat make a note of it.

According to the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD), "The entire national Capitol Region has experienced an increase in bike thefts. These thefts may be contributed to the high cost of fuel or the large number of bike couriers in this region." Over the last two years, 18 bikes have been reported stolen from the Takoma Metro station alone.

The MTPD has made several arrests recently for bike theft. The MTPD does not use cameras specifically targeted at bike racks, but they often deploy plain clothes officers at stations where bike thefts occur more frequently. They also use web sites and check pawn shops for stolen merchandise. You can call 202.962.2121 to report suspicious activity around Metro's bike racks.
The MTPD recommends Metro customers use WMATA bike racks and a high quality cable lock. In the District of Columbia, you can request a bike rack directly from WABA's website.

Some bike owners swear off cable locks since they can easily be cut with bolt cutters. Check out SmartLock, the latest innovation in locks specifically designed to deter bike theft.

SmartLock has cores of compressed air and liquid running through the cable. It works a bit like a dye pack used in a bank robbery. If the cable lock is cut a combination of colored dye and an invisible forensic property marking liquid is sprayed on the perpetrator.

SmartLock is not yet available to the public. In October 2008 it was featured at the London Bicycle Film Festival and it has been shortlisted to exhibit at Innovation Nation - an exhibition at the Ideal Home Show in March 2009.

In the meantime, be smart when you leave your bike. Use a bike rack, a good lock, and secure or remove loose items such as the seat and wheels. Consider 'booby-trapping' your bike to make it a little less convenient for a thief to jump on and ride away.

For example, as you are coasting to your stopping point, shift your bike without pedaling. When a thief jumps on and tries to pedal, the gears go nuts, the chain drops off, and hopefully the thief runs away.

Or, loosen the wheel skewer. The thief jumps on, the wheel starts to wobble, maybe falls off, the thief gives up.

Perhaps, loosen the seat post. The thief jumps on, the seat falls down, you can imagine the rest.

Just remember what you did so you don't hurt yourself when you go to ride home. Okay, so maybe those options aren't exactly ideal, but it sure would be fun to watch!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Purple: The New Green

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) has come out in support of the controversial Purple Line.

This move offers an opposing view to the Save the Trail organization which has been very vocal along the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) through Bethesda.

Save the Trail states the Purple line, as it is proposed, will destroy the heavily used CCT. Pro CCT activists cite the impact the light rail will have on the environment, the neighborhoods, and the safety of future trail users.

WABA claims that supporting the Purple Line will not only save the trail but also improve it. WABA stresses the importance of completing the Bicycle Beltway around the District of Columbia.

The CCT is an eleven mile paved multi-use trail that runs from Bethesda to Georgetown. In a 2007 survey report completed by the CCT Coalition, the estimated weekly users topped 23,000 at the Bethesda location.

The trail connects with the Georgetown Branch Trail east of the Air Rights tunnel that runs under Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. This section of the interim CCT is crushed gravel. A completed trail would connect with downtown Silver Spring.

In the 2007 survey, the Coalition found trail use dropped significantly at this unpaved section of the trail suggesting a need to pave the rest of the trail.

WABA believes that the trail improvements that will come with the Purple Line -- especially the construction of the long-planned segment into downtown Silver Spring and the protected intersection crossings that will come with a light rail line -- make this a win-win project for both trail users and the people who will ride the new transit line.

WABA also points to the proposed Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) as an example of rails and trails co-existing and providing a valuable tool for reducing traffic congestion in the DC area.
The MBT is a proposed 8-mile multi-use trail that runs from Silver Spring in Maryland to Union Station in DC. Combining these two trails will give bicycle commuters many options into and out of the city.