A Little Sardonic Humor - We Still Hang 'em! Lisa Tormoen Hickey
Bikes remain a valuable investment, and we want to promote their use for transportation, for a variety of health-related reasons. Some, like my husband, rely on them because they cannot or will not drive. They remain easy to steal and the parts are easy to sell, over the Internet through easy-access free advertiser-sponsored websites. Identification numbers are more difficult to see than an old fashioned livestock brand, so thieves know they can display and peddle a stolen bike and stolen components without much fear of getting caught. The police are overwhelmed by other crimes. We now expect that in order to promote bicycle use, employers and businesses must provide bike stands within public view or large locked cages to slow down professional bike thieves who can quickly cut through heavy locks. Bike stands must be monitored to reduce risks, because bike theft remains prevalent.
This need for expensive and inconvenient vigilance against thievery could be reduced if we heightened the level of disgust for bicycle theft and activities which promote it. Several old fashioned ways of shaming people into better behavior have stood the test of time, so long as we have enough face -to-face interaction to trigger our sense of abhorrence against being shunned or enduring public disgrace.
First, we could require more familiarity with the history of a bike and its owners before we agree to buy or sell a bike or its components. We could avoid and pressure others to avoid using Internet websites for purchase and sale of bikes and bike parts. Internet websites promote theft by shielding thieves and providing them value for their criminal activities through anonymity and lack of due diligence. It could be anti-social behavior to purchase bikes or bike parts from anyone other than a brick and mortar bike store or personal friend or acquaintance who can track the origin through reasonable diligence. We could make it a regular practice to ask for the source documents whenever a bicycle or significant bicycle components change hands. We could scowl at anyone who cannot reasonably trace their bike and bike parts back to the manufacturer. If we establish this ethos we could then go back to using the Internet for transactions, but only after requiring the same level of proof.
Second, we should promote more bikes to be available, through a lend/lease program, throughout the centralized areas of town. Such a system would devalue stolen bikes to a small extent, and would allow commuting without exposing more valuable bikes to theft. It would create an expectation of bicycles in regular use which would have other societal benefits.
We should consider whether some crimes still warrant the harsher penalties from the old West, to avoid the risk of stepping out into the dark night to find you have lost your ride back home to the ranch.