Biking in NYC: How to Keep Your Bike Safe

As anyone who drives or otherwise plies the streets of New York City can see, thousands more bikes are on the streets than were there just a few years ago.

This is partly because the city has aggressively installed new bike lanes to keep people safer on their two-wheeled contraptions, partly because people want to get healthier, and also because a bike can actually get you around some parts of the city faster than a car.

See How Riding a Bike Can Be a Great Alternative to NYC Fare Hikes

Unfortunately, the rise in bike traffic has produced a predictable side-effect, which is more targets for thieves. From 2011 to 2015, bicycle thefts rose 70 percent to more than 4,800 a year, according to New York Police Department statistics reported to the city’s Transportation Committee. 

The trend is not confined to the city’s rougher neighborhoods. Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez reported a 64 percent surge in thefts of bikes worth more than $1,000, with incidents concentrated in nicer neighborhoods like the West Village, East Village and the Flatiron district. 

It’s not clear whether those statistics cover the pieces of bikes that were stolen — wheels, seats and handlebars, typically — or just whole bikes, but the solution to all is fairly simple. Proper locks.

Bicycle Habitat mechanic Hal Ruzal has become YouTube famous worldwide for his videos on the proper ways to thief-proof a bike. Here’s one of them from the vault of partner


Or, if you just want the basic takeaway points, here they are.

  • Use Cables or Chains. A simple U-lock can secure your frame to a solid object, but what about your quick-release wheels and seat? Your bike will be tough to ride without those. Wind a stout cable lock through removable items and your frame to keep any of it from disappearing.


  • Watch What You’re Locking To. Pick something solid, immovable and really tall or connected at the top and bottom to lock your cable to if there’s no secure bike rack around. Winding a steel cable around a parking meter won’t do you any good if a thief can just slip the whole mess over the top, toss your bike in a van and cut the lock off later. And locking your stuff to a scaffolding support or some other moveable object won’t do you much good if the object gets moved while you’re gone.


  • Lock Your Seat Down. You might have to carry two cables for this, but lock your seat to your frame or to your locking anchor, along with the wheels and frame. As Hal notes, pointing to an uncomfortable-looking unlocked racing seat, “A junkie gets a lot of money for this.” So if you don’t lock it, they will. And you will have to ride home on a post.


You can also register your bike by taking it to your nearest NYPD precinct building or register it with any of a number of private bike registries, but your chances of getting your ride back once it’s stolen are less than about 2 percent. So it’s best to be safe to begin with.

For more tips on biking and other ways to get around the city without a car, check Streetfilms’ many entries on its page. And stay tuned to for the next big thing in New York City.



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