A stolen or lost bike isn't always a lost cause--but doing everything possible to prevent a theft before it happens is a lot easier than jumping through a series of logistical and legal hoops to get it back once it's already been taken. Plus, if you do everything you can and it still gets stolen, at least you'll feel a (little) better knowing it wasn't totally your fault.
>> Make sure you use the right kind of lock to secure your bike to something stable. U-locks that come with flat keys are the best locks because they can't be picked as easily as cylindrical keyed locks. The Chicago Bicycle Program website recommends "buying the most expensive lock you can afford" to lock your bike to something firmly affixed to the ground like a city-installed bike rack, a parking meter or a sign pole.
>> Lock your bike correctly, in a safe place. Lock around the frame and through one of the wheels, using a cable lock or second U-lock to secure the second wheel. Wheels are easily to steal if they aren't secured, especially quick-release wheels. If you're leaving your bike, keep it in a high-traffic area, where someone would attract a lot of attention if they tried to steal it. Keep it inside whenever you can.
>> Make it uglier and harder to steal than the bikes you are locking it near. Steven Vance of the transportation blog Grid Chicago recommends making your bike as "ugly and difficult to steal" as you can. "As bad as this sounds, yes, you are trying to make a thief go for your neighbor's bike and not yours," Vance said.
>> Write down your bike's serial number. Also, keep all of your receipts. Take a picture of yourself with the bike. Some riders slide a slip of paper with their contact information under their bike's handlebar grips so they if they need to later, they can easily prove to a seller or a police officer that it's really theirs. Charlie Short of the Chicago Bicycling Program and Active Transportation Alliance recommends etching your driver's license number somewhere on your bike so police officers can trace the bike to your current address, even if you've moved since your bike was stolen.
>> Register your bike with the Chicago Police Department. You can register your bike with the Chicago Police Department online. If your bike is (knock on wood) stolen at some point, you'll have an easier time getting the police's help tracking it down if it's already in their system.
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