As you probably know, Berlin bike theft is a serious problem. If you haven’t had your bike stolen, you’re in a lucky minority. This number reached a new peak in 2017 with over 34,000 bike thefts reported to the police. (Just think how many people didn’t even bother to report the theft!) The report published earlier in the year described how bicycles are particularly likely to be stolen in front of places like railway stations, schools and shopping centres.
So although stealing bikes is as popular a pastime as ever, there are things you can do to make sure your bike is just a little bit safer.
1) Don’t leave your bike outside
It probably goes without saying, but if you have a valuable bike and you can avoid it, never ever leave it locked up outside (even in your courtyard) where you can’t keep your eye on it at all times. If I can, I’ll always bring my bike inside, or at least chain it to something inside – even if it involves carrying it up a steep flight of stairs to visit a mate who lives on the fourth floor. And let’s face it, all of your friends live on the fourth floor.
2) Safety in numbers.
If you’re with one or more friends, always lock your bikes on top of one another with more than one lock, preferably with the more valuable bike at the bottom of the pile. A lot of thieves will be put off stealing a more expensive bike if they have to get past two other less valuable bikes which are on top of it. More locks also = more security.
3) Always lock through the wheel(s) and the frame.
If possible, use two locks, one through the seat tube and rear wheel and one through the front wheel. It’s amazing how many cyclists, even those with more expensive bikes, only lock the bike through the top tube of the frame, or worse, just through a wheel. Better still: take off the front wheel and lock it to the back wheel and frame.
4) Lock your bike to something strong and unmovable.
Can a thief lift your bike over what it’s locked to? Is it locked to something that’s actually attached to the ground? Be especially careful of locking your bike to scaffolding or temporary street signs. Those poles aren’t always connected to the ground.
5) When using a ‘u/d-lock’ make sure you lock it to the seat tube and the wheel.
Simply putting the lock around the top tube can allow the thief to use the bike’s frame as a lever to pop it open, or just give the thief too much space to work with. Better yet, buy the smallest U/D-lock you can find, giving the thief less space to stick a car jack in it therefore making it more resistant to ‘leverage-based attacks’, as Sheldon Brown puts it here.
6) Invest in the best lock you can.
That is, not the one in the picture. Not all locks are created equally. No single lock is unbreakable, but some locks take longer to break open than others. Why not spend a little money to make sure you have one that is a little harder to crack open?
7) Get insured.
SO MANY cyclists don’t insure their bikes. In a city with as much bike theft as in Berlin, you’d be surprised how few cyclists actually insure their bikes. It really isn’t very expensive and hardly takes any time to do. In fact, I’m gonna go do that right now…
8) Make your bike easily identifiable by marking it.
Good tips here include etching your initials somewhere on the frame or at least writing your initials on each tire with tip-ex or a permanent marker. It’s much harder to sell a bike that has someone’s initials or some other identifying mark on it.
9) Know your area.
I’d wager that 90% of bike thefts could be avoided if people only thought a little more carefully about where they were locking up their bikes. Don’t assume that because it’s in a ‘busy’ part of town that your bike is safer. Forget the idea ’no one will steal my bike around here’.
What can you do if your bike is stolen?
Unfortunately, the chances of getting it back are slim. Firstly, report it to the police. The Berlin Police also have a registry of unclaimed bikes on their website – so your stolen bike could be one of these: https://www.berlin.de/polizei/service/vermissen-sie-ihr-fahrrad/