Prevent Theft

New York City is home to some of the best urban bicycling in America. However, it is also home to some of the most professional and aggressive bike thieves in the world. The good news is that there are a number of preventative steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

Bike theft in New York City is no joke. Thieves will go at your lock with bolt cutters, hacksaws, portable angle grinders, chisels, hammers, crowbars, and even 2x4s in pursuit your bike.

Play it smart, however, and you can grow old with your bike without fear of its sudden, unfortunate departure.

How to lock your bike

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Best Locking Practice (the pizza method)

  • Lock the rim of your back wheel to an object through the rear triangle of your frame.
  • A thief will have to cut the rim in two places to steal your bike, which would render the bike unridable and the second-most expensive component — the rear wheel — worthless.
  • Trouble imagining how this works?  Read up here for more detail.
  • Bottom line: Whenever you lock up, lock up the pizza slice.

Tips for Securing Your Bike:

  • Invest in heavy-duty locks. Cheap locks and cables can easily be cut by thieves. Despite the sticker shock they can induce (and the pain they can be to lug around) high quality chains and U-locks sold by professional bike shops are the only real option for keeping your ride safe in New York.
  • Secure the four theft targets. Thieves will take whatever they can get. If you lock your bike frame but leave either of your wheels or your seat unprotected you leave those components vulnerable to theft. Figure out a locking strategy that secures all four of these components with quality locks and chains. Many bike shops sell special saddle locks or will permanently secure your seat to your frame with a used piece of drive train chain for a reasonable price. Note: In many cities, it is customary to lock your wheels only if you have "quick-release" skewers. This is not the case in New York. ALWAYS secure both wheels.
  • Don't leave your bike outside overnight. The safest place to lock a bike is almost always indoors. When you aren't using your bike find a safe place to keep it in your dorm room or apartment. If you really have no room for talk to a local parking garage. They are required by law to provide bike parking and will often allow you to rent a space by the month at a reasonable price.
  • Choose a good spot to lock your bike during the day. NYU has several protected areas on campus for bike parking. These include the flagship Tisch Hall Bike Parking Lot (behind Tisch Hall at Mercer and 3rd St.), as well as The Palladium Bike Room (13th St. entrance), and the Meyer Building lobby (Washington Place). These locations (with the exception of the Palladium Bike Room if you are a Palladium resident) are only for same day parking. Bikes left in these locations overnight are subject to removal by Public Safety of building management. Also, just because these areas are restricted to the NYU community does not mean that they are not vulnerable to theft. Lock your bike as carefully as you would on the street.
  • You don't have to use the NYU bike racks. If you can't make it to one of these locations the next best option is to use one of the hundreds of Department of Transportation public racks located throughout the city and in high density around NYU.
  • You don't have to use a bike rack. If there is no bike rack available your next best bet is to lock to a public street sign (preferably not a bus stop sign as your bike becomes an obstacle for people getting on and off the bus).
  • Be mindful of what you're locking to.You should NEVER lock up to someone's private property (fence, railing, etc.), a subway railing, a tree, a parking meter, or a horizontal scaffold bar.
  • Never leave your bike unlocked outside. Not just for a second, even if you're keeping one eye on it. Just don't do it.

For more tips on safe locking, check out this guide from Bike New York.


Additional tips

  • Invest in heavy-duty locks. Cheap locks and cables can easily be cut by thieves. High quality chains and U-locks made by companies such as Kryptonite or Abus are the only real options for keeping your ride safe in New York.
  • When transporting chain locks, NEVER lock them around your hips, shoulder, or neck. Should you fall, you will almost certainly break your hip or collarbone. Stow your chain in a basket or wrap it around the base of your seat post.
  • Give your bike a quick tug after locking and before leaving. Even the best of us have our days where we have not locked up like we thought we did. Give your bike a quick little tug to make sure it’s securely hitched and not locked to itself or nothing at all.
  • Make sure the object to which you’re locking is stronger than the lock. You could have an invincible lock and still get your bike stolen if you secure your bike to a less-than-secure object.
  • Wrought-iron fences can be more easily clipped than a U-lock’s hardened steel. Scaffolding can be unbolted and the lock slid off. Street signs loose at the base can be wiggled out of the ground. Whatever you hitch to, make sure it’s solid as a rock!
  • Also, be sure that a thief won’t be able to simply lift the lock up and over the object. Naked street sign posts and parking meters leave your bike just as vulnerable as not locking it at all.
  • Create a snug fit between your lock and your bike. Use every bit of lock you have! Extra slack in the chain or extra space in the U-lock allows thieves room to play with their tools and even manage a leverage attack.
  • Park in well-lit, heavily trafficked areas. Thieves may be bold. But parking where extra sets of eyes can look out for your bike never hurts. When parking for the night, consider leaving your bike on an avenue rather than a side street.
  • Don’t park your bike in the same spot all the time. Thieves who see a bike repeatedly parked in one spot may become emboldened to give your lock a run for its money. It allows the crooks to return well-equipped, knowing that the bike will likely be awaiting their sticky fingers. Sticky icky.
  • Keep your lock from touching the ground. Locks positioned close enough to the sidewalk can be leveraged or crushed more easily than a lock positioned higher up, snugly attached to the bike.
  • Never leave your bike unhitched and unattended — even for a second. It’s just not smart. A thief on your bike will outrun you on your legs. Take the extra second to lock up.

It’s best to lock up to:

  • Bike racks
  • Sign posts
  • Streetlamps

Never lock up to:

  • Trees
  • Scaffolding
  • Subway railings
  • Private fences
  • Bus stop signposts