Thursday, July 8, 2010

A news story to mourn the loss of Gary Fisher, my bike

Greetings friends,

Working together, my classmates Becki Brandt and Shea Whittle and I wrote an article for our journalism class yesterday. We were assigned to cover crime in the Edgewater and Andersonville neighborhoods of Chicago, and decided to focus our reporting on bike theft (isn't that fitting considering what happened to me Tuesday?).

For those of you who are wondering why reporting on bike theft would be fitting, check out my previous blog. Someone snatched my bike in the middle of the day while I was in class. (Tear, sniff, tear). Fortunately, friends and family have been supportive: My girlfriend's dad even offered to fix up her old bike so I can use it! How kind of an offer is that?

Windy City Bike Thefts

Be on alert for bike burglars. Chicago is the No. 2 city in America most susceptible to bike theft, according to a 2009 study by bike lock manufacturer Kryptonite Corp.

George Vrechek, a member of the Chicago Cycling Club for nine years, says though he lives in a safe neighborhood, he worries about bike theft.

“I don’t lock [my bike] up, I keep it between my legs,” Vrechek said. “If I’m on top of it, it can’t disappear.”

Since 2006, there has been an increase annually in the number of bike thefts in the 20th District, which covers Edgewater and Andersonville. Last year, the highest number of stolen bikes was reported in the beat 2013, which comprises the area between Clarke and Sheridan, and Lawrence and Peterson, according to 20th District Beat Team Sgt. Jeffrey Sacks.

Bike thefts traditionally go up in the summer, Sacks said. The 20th District receives the highest number of reported bike thefts during the months of June, July and August.

“[Bike thieves] just drive around in vans and do it in broad daylight,” Sacks said, referring to how easy it is for bikes to get stolen.

Chicago residents who have their bike stolen can report it to the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry online. Since its 2004 launch, the registry has managed 1440 bike theft reports from city residents. Of those bikes reported, 1.18 percent of them were recovered.

Police can only return a stolen bike if the owner has properly registered the bike with local authorities---providing a detailed description of the bike is not sufficient. Bikes can be registered with the National Bike Registry and the Chicago Police online and by mail.

Organizations around Chicago are taking a more active role to prevent bicycle theft by providing bike valet services. Wrigley Field has a free valet program, as well some local festivals such as this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival and Movies at the Park.

Other major cities are also making efforts to roll back the trend of increasing bike thefts. According to a recent NY Times report, Boston and San Francisco are among cities implementing new technology to try and curb bicycle thefts. Police mount concealed transmitters on bikes and catch burglars using the GPS device. Also, bicyclists are using social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to alert friends of a stolen bike.

However, the most effective way to prevent bike theft is to secure your bike and register it with the city.

peace and take care friends,

your friend bob.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I want to ride my bicycle (but can't)

Greetings friends,

I’m back to being a bipedal commuter, for the time being. That’s because some nimrod(s) decided to steal my bike Tuesday. Recently, I had found the right gear pedaling to my journalism classes at Northwestern and listening to podcasts from media magnificos like the British Broadcasting Company, the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio. While I still have my earphones and iPod nano, I have been stripped of enjoying the pairing of pedaling and podcast. My bike ride north to class provided me with much needed exercise and also a picturesque scene of Lake Michigan en route to Evanston. Now I will be stuck on a Chicago Transit Authority train with angry, tired commuters who don’t really want to make eye contact for fear they might have to make small talk before the workday begins. I don’t blame them really. My bike ride offered an escape from the awkwardness that is a CTA train at 8 a.m. in the morning, a mass transit of men and women wearing mostly suits and business attire. Thanks to bike buccaneers, I will be alongside business people riding to real jobs, in my sophisticated...err...sloppy wardrobe.

On my bike rides, I had time to breath and feel the wind and pedal and catch up with news. Now, I’ll be feeling the breath of the stranger close to me on a train that is probably overcrowded due to the city’s cutback in the train schedule.

But there is hope that my bike will live on. It had a name. Gary Fischer. It had a distinct color: blue. Finally, it had really amazing tires that rolled whenever I pedaled. Gary Fischer was a traveling companion, a friend who accompanied me to Northwestern, waited for me at the bike rack, and then, suddenly, good ole’ Gary vanished.

I hope whoever stole Gary reads this blog and feels bad enough to return my bike to me. Hoodlums have hearts---I pray they look inside and realize that stealing is bad for their soul. Just ask St. Augustine. The dude felt terrible after stealing a peach when he was a child. I feel bad even when I steal something as simple as cereal from my roommates. When I got home the night of the bike theft, I felt obliged to notify my roommate Arthur that I was going to steal his Frosted Flakes (Side note: they were Grrrreat). My justification for pouring a bowl: it was a family size box, and we belong to a little family of four in our four-person apartment. The cereal-steal is probably not the most relevant detail to include in this story---what is probably more amusing to you is that my bike was stolen.

There are several ironic correlations between what is going on in my life and the bike theft. An hour before I realized my bike was stolen I had signed up to run the 2010 Chicago Marathon. So perhaps, I reasoned, the bike theft is a sign that I ought to just start training the old fashioned way: by running everywhere.

The second, probably more comical ironic twist: Wednesday my class assignment is to write a 500-word article on crime in an assigned Chicago neighborhood. My group was assigned Andersonville, a neighborhood just south of my neighborhood, Edgewater. Had the assignment been a more general piece on crime in the area, I could have whipped up a little feature on having your bike stolen on a private university in the middle of the day.
(However, this blog is already nearly 600 words, so I would have already failed the assignment and received what my journalism school, Medill, calls the dreaded ‘Medill F’).

Oh well…the moral of the story is clear enough: purchase a solid bike lock (mine was shoddy at best, and sometimes didn’t lock properly).

Also, be flexible and open to change. Every person (just like my personified bike Gary) is a gift-on-loan. We value his or her company but we also realize that there might come a point when he or she is no longer with us. While this final part of my story really does spin (pun intended) in a different direction, it is not an absolute wipe out. If 17th century Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza is right, then we are all One, and maybe even Gary is hanging out on a thief-proof bike rack in Heaven, waiting for me to have a chance to climb the saddle once more. I only hope that his seat has a feather-soft cushion and his tires are a bit more inflated. Then I know I will have reached Heaven.

peace and keep pedaling,

your friend bob.