Keep Your Bike Safe (When You're Not There)
RULE OF THUMB
Always lock it.
Never leave your bike unlocked — even if you’re leaving it for only half a minute. A thief can grab your bike in seconds.
1 Basics of Theft Prevention
Lock your bike to something that’s permanent and not easy for a thief to take. If a bicycle rack or corral is not available, be sure to lock it to a secure object. Chain link fences or trees are a bad idea. Parking meters and street signs can work, but don’t block the sidewalk with your bike — it could be reported and removed.
To avoid creating a hazard for the elderly and disabled, do not lock your bike to hand railings, especially those near stairs, wheelchair ramps, or transit islands. And even if you keep your bike in a garage, basement, or on a porch, lock it!
Park in open areas where many people pass by and your bicycle can be seen easily. Thieves usually don't like an audience.
Keep It Close By
Put your bike where you can get to it fast. Thieves like to steal bikes whose owners are far away.
Know Your Bike's Serial Number
What’s the first thing to do when you get a new bike? Write down the serial number and keep it in a safe place. Look for the number on the underside of the bottom bracket shell where the cranks attach. Serial numbers are sometimes stamped on the head tube, seat tube, or on one of the frame's rear dropouts, where the wheel is mounted.
Give It Identifying Marks
Discourage thieves and increase your chances of recovering a stolen bicycle by engraving your name or driver’s license number on your bike frame. You can also put a card with your name and phone number inside the handlebar or seat tubes. This will help you prove it’s your bike if you find it at an auction, junk shop, or flea market.
Optional: Let Your Bike Get Ugly
We’re not kidding! In busy commercial areas, where thieves have lots of bikes to choose from, your bike is less likely to be stolen if it looks old or just plain ugly.
2Carry the Right Lock
Some U-locks are stronger than others. Make sure you buy a strong hardened steel lock. If the manufacturer offers a warranty or insurance, register the lock and write down the lock’s serial number and when you bought it. One drawback to U-locks: you can't lock up to thick objects such as street lights; for these, carry a thick cable.
Padlocks & Chains
Look for anti-theft security chains: the thicker, the better. Chain links and lock shackles should be at least 3/8 of an inch thick. Look for locks and chains that are case-hardened—a process that makes them harder to cut while still resistant to shattering.
For additional security, use a double-looped cable with your U-lock. Place the U-lock shackle around the rack, your bike frame and through your rear wheel. Loop a cable around your front wheel, bike frame and onto your U-lock shackle. Use a cable at least 3/8 of an inch thick with a lock as thick, or thicker.
3Lock Your Bike Correctly
Lock the Whole Bike
You should put your chain, cable, or U-locks through your frame and both wheels—taking the front wheel off if you have a quick-release hub. Never lock through your wheel without locking the frame because thieves can remove your wheel and steal the rest of the bike.
A good way to foil thieves is to use more than one kind of lock. For example, put a U-lock through your frame and rear tire, and put a cable or chain through your frame and front tire.
Make It Difficult to Break a Lock
Thieves may break a lock by putting it against a wall or sidewalk and smashing it with a hammer. If you use a padlock, try to put it where it’s not close to the ground or against a wall or another solid surface, leaving little or no slack in your cable or chain. When using a U-lock, leave little or no space in the lock’s middle to prevent prying.
Secure Removable Items
When you leave your bike, remove any parts you can’t lock and a thief could steal easily: a quick-release seat, tool bag, cycle computer, or lights. If removing quick-release parts is a hassle, replace the fasteners with bolt-on or security hardware.
4Where to Park Your Bike
Only lock your bike to a parking meter if you’re using a U-lock. Never lock to a meter with only a chain or cable—a thief will slide your bike over the top.
Bike Racks & Corrals
Look for thick, immovable bicycle racks installed outside of many buildings. Some building owners and local governments have provided ribbon-shaped racks and inverted U-shaped racks, which are very secure places to park your bike. Special note: there have been cases where a rack has been unbolted from the sidewalk, or the bolts have been loosened enough so the rack is easily pulled out and the locked bike removed. It may not be obvious at first, so remember to check before you lock your bike.
Parking Lots & Garages
In San Francisco, all public and private garages with 10 or more spaces are required to provide bicycle parking. Not all garages are in compliance. Some garages charge a minimal fee. If you find a garage that is not in compliance, please call 311 and request to speak to the Planning Department since they are responsible for enforcing bicycle parking codes for garages and lots.
The Bicycle Program administers and maintains 52 bicycle lockers in six separate garages, mainly downtown. There are waiting lists for some, but not all, locations.
A good way to avoid theft: park your bike indoors. Some stores and buildings allow bikes inside, if only for a short time. When parking indoors, lock your bike securely.
Not Recommended: Sign Poles or Trees
Sign poles aren't the best places to lock your bike. Before locking to a pole, check whether you can pull it out of the ground. Also check how easily a thief could remove the sign and slide your bike over the top of the pole. Locking a bike to a tree can hurt even large trees if the bark is damaged; please be kind to our trees and find another place to lock up.
5Dealing with Theft
Report Your Stolen Bike
First, find your bike’s serial number if you have it. Then call your local police and tell them where your bike was stolen. Try to get a police report number that you can use for an insurance claim, and ask how the police will contact you if they find your bike. Call your local police to learn whether they auction off recovered, unclaimed property.
Recovering Your Bike
Sometimes you can find your bicycle at places like flea markets, pawn shops, auctions, or resale shops that might deal in stolen merchandise. But if you find your stolen bike among other property that someone’s selling, remember that they won't just give it to you; you must prove it’s yours. Keep your serial number or use identifying marks as described above.