Bike culture is big in Brooklyn, and so is bike theft. If you ride, chances are you or one of your friends knows what it’s like to find the remnants of your bike lying like a dead carcass on the curb, or just a sad, busted lock where your bike once stood. This summer, though, we heard some incredible bike recovery stories, like author and bike lover Jami Attenberg‘s amazing tale of a stolen yellow Schwinn and its return thanks to Craigslist, an internet savvy friend and the officers of the NYPD. Her story may well renew your faith in urban lif
Lest you think she’s the only one, we found another fantastic bike recovery story–this time with a green bike at stake. Rooftop farmer Annie Novak was teaching a class at Brooklyn Kitchen late this June. She left her bike, along with half a dozen others, in the loading dock area in the front of the store. When she went to leave at the end of the evening her bike was missing. (Note to bike thieves: Employees at Brooklyn Kitchen now lock their bikes up and encourage customers to do the same.)
“It was definitely a love bike,” says Novak, who built it herself for Alleycat bike racing, a bike-messenger organized group that puts together races that depend as much on knowing the best routes around the city as on speed. She went home and posted a notice about the theft on a bike messenger forum, and started a massive text message campaign, saying, “Hey all my bike was stlen frm the bklyn kitchen last night. Steel trek frame bright green rear wheel red tires green grips and water bttle cage. My hearts brken. Call if u see her!” She also got old school on the problem.”I printed 100 posters and put them up everywhere I could think of where people would go with bikes,” she says. Novak offered a $200 reward for the bike, far more than the $60 she estimates she spent to build it. Then she got down to business. “I went to a friend’s house and we built a new bike, mostly from parts I had–I hated it though, I was like, ‘This is not my bike,'” she says. A few days later, Novak received a text message saying that her bike was locked up outside Loco Burrito, a restaurant on Grand St. in Williamsburg. “I went home and grabbed $200 in cash and a kitchen knife,” she says. “I didn’t recognize the number on the text.”
When she arrived the texter turned out to be a guy she knew from Alleycat racing–a good Samaritan and fellow bike lover who had seen her posters around town–not a bike thief. They went into the restaurant together and explained the situation. After seeing Novak’s photos and recognizing that the bike had been stolen, the manager unlocked the bike, which the restaurant had purchased for $40 as a delivery bike, and Novak took it home. (She’s heard through the grapevine that stolen bikes often resurface as delivery bikes in Williamsburg and conjectures that there’s a bike thief out there running a restaurant loop.) She tried to give the finder the reward money and he refused, citing the satisfaction of seeing bike and owner reunited as the best possible reward. From theft to recovery it was a four-day turnaround for Novak’s bike–not as quick as Jami Attenberg’s 12-hour experience, but a triumph nonetheless.
“It was the power of old-fashioned communication,” says Novak. “After I got my bike back I went around and wrote FOUND! on all the posters–it really made my day.” As exceptional as it is to get your bike back, even better is preventing a theft in the first place. Biker (and baker) Katya Schapiro compiled a great guide to not getting your bike stolen. Check out the bike theft prevention tips she gleaned from Brooklyn bike shops here>>>