08 November 2012

When Chattering Bike Geeks Perform A Public Service

If your bike is stolen in New York City, you have about a two percent chance of getting it back.  

Agata Slota didn't expect to beat those odds.  Her bike--which her brother built for her--was lifted near Union Square five years ago.  She posted an ad and photo on Craigslist.  A week later, they expired and she had not received any responses. She and her boyfriend started to plan on a replacement.

However, a friend posted the photo and an announcement of the theft on an online chat room for fixed-gear enthusiasts.  Several weeks later, someone posted a response after seeing Ms. Slota's bike locked up outside a Quizno's restaurant in Midtown.  This led to a series of a series of messages that resulted in Ms. Slota getting her bike back.

Jack Drury, a former bike messenger who was interning at Transportation Altenatives, was one of the people who read the post.  He went to the Quizno's restaurant.  The bike wasn't there, but on a hunch, he went inside and talked to the person behind the counter, who said the bike belonged to a delivery man who paid $200 for it. 

After negotiating a deal to buy the bike, Drury then enlisted a group of volunteers to go with him to the Quizno's, where the man with the bike was supposed to meet them.  He didn't show, but another employee told them about the man's second job as a dishwasher in an Upper West Side restaurant.  So Drury and his posse rode uptown where they met the man, who wasn't a very enthusiastic negotiator.  Drury then pulled out his cellphone and dialed the police.  While he was waiting to be connected, the man gave in.

Drury doesn't believe the man stole the bike and doesn't harbor any ill will toward him.  In fact, he offered the man one of his own bicycles and gave him his number. He hasn't heard back.

Needless to say, Ms. Slota has become more vigilant about bike theft.  From Drury, she learned not to lock her bike to a horizontal bar of a construction scaffold, as it is fairly easy to unscrew.  Better to lock it to the vertical post. 

She applied that lesson recently, when she saw two men admiring a Bianchi track bike in the way prospective thieves would.  When she asked the men about the bike, they took off.  Then, she got one of her own locks out of her office and secured the bike (which had been attached to the horizontal bar) to the vertical bar.    

She left a note with her phone number, and a message that she would unlock the bike after its owner called her.  Clearly, her own experiences motivated her to help prevent something similar (though with the probability of a less-happy outcome) from happening to somebody else.

And she's still riding the bike her brother built for her.


  1. Yay! I like hearing a happy outcome to a stolen bike.

  2. Annie--I know what you mean. One of the reasons I posted this is that I felt so good after reading about the efforts of Jack Drury and other members of that bike chatroom.