Bike locked to bike = bike theft technique

Transportation Nation reports on what they believe is a breach of etiquette, but I see a bike theft in progress.

Bike top locked traps bike

Freakonomics Radio Producer Collin Campbell spots a note on a locked bike:

Please remove this bike so that I can unlock my own.

TN posts a photo of the interlocked bikes and the note and chides the offending owner of a brown cruiser bike, because a lack of bike parking is “no excuse to lock your bike to another one.”

They’ve missed the other scenario that I hear is somewhat common. A thief deliberately locks a bike to another bike. The frustrated owners of the trapped bikes find another way home, planning to return later in the hopes that the “top” bike will be gone the next day.

Thief returns that night with tools and a truck and makes off with all of the bikes trapped on that rack.

Sneaky, huh?

If you find a strange lock trapping your bike, don’t leave it overnight. In the photo posted at TN, I see a cheap, bottom of the barrel $20 U-lock from MasterLock. Because the way the bike is locked across the top tube, you can use the thieve’s bike as leverage and twist until something breaks — probably the lock shackle, but maybe even the bike frame itself. Give the thief a taste of his own medicine.


  1. Toronto has this scam, among others.  Google ‘Igor Kenk’, if you haven’t already heard the name.  In Tokyo now, but when in Toronto I simply do not ride errands by bike, because I don’t ride bikes I can afford to lose.  I commuted by bike there, but my bikes were inside my home, workplace, or underneath me.  If I had to run errands by bike in Toronto, or could not bring a full sized bike inside, I’d go folder.  Toronto’s ‘Bixi’ would be an option, if it had a larger catchment.

  2. AGREED: this is not an accident by a careless innocent owner, it’s a thief scam.  If you find your bike locked up by another IMMEDIATELY find police and have them cut your bike free.  And how do they know it’s yours?  You do have any of a number of free serial number registration cards for your bike, y/y?  Get one if not!  Take a picture of your bike at home, with you, and print it – keep it in your wallet. 

    If you leave your bike alone the night it’s been locked up by someone else it will not be there if you decide it can wait until tomorrow.

  3. When I had a lock intertwined on my bike, I scanned the patio tables for a small woman… second one we asked was the “culprit” who was glad to fix the problem.

    However, it was a long cable lock and a nice bike… clearly an accident.

  4. This almost happened to me in London. The scam goes like this: the bike thief locks his bike to yours, but so it’s not easy to spot. You unlock your bike and want to ride it off but realize that it’s locked to another. Being a little flustered by this, you forget to lock your bike back up again, as in your head you think it’s still secure – it’s locked up after all. Well of course, when you’ve gone home by bus it’s an easy job for the thief to come back, take his lock off and walk away with two bikes.

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