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When I lock my bicycle I try to lock it on quiet spots, usually on street racks situated on secondary streets.

I think it will be less visible so it will attract less looks. On the other hand, if a thief wants to steal it, he will have more time to act before someone spots him.

Is it better to lock the bicycle in crowded or quiet locations?

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The tradeoff is this -- a given thief is less likely to steal a given bike in a busy place, but there are more thieves in a busy place. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 25 '12 at 11:18
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And a lot depends on where you live. In a medium-sized town in the US Midwest you could probably leave your bike unlocked all the time with little fear of having it stolen, but in NYC it could disappear in the blink of an eye, even with two U locks on it. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 25 '12 at 12:38
    
Yeah, I was living in Sweden and you can leave your bicycle without lock even overnight. But now I'm living in London UK which is quite different in this aspect –  yeforriak Sep 25 '12 at 15:26
    
At my campus there was a bicycle that anyone working at the campus (~80 employees + ~50 students) could borrow. It was never locked. I think it took around 10 years, then it was gone. This was in the forest, 8 km from a 17000-inhabitant town and ~350 km from the nearest city. –  gerrit Sep 25 '12 at 20:42
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See this post for an analysis of the different types of bike thieves. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 26 '12 at 12:00

7 Answers 7

up vote 17 down vote accepted

It is all subjective, but I would say that a public place is better (as I have previously answered to a similar question).

Most bike thefts are opportunistic; unless you've got an especially desirable bike the theft is not about your bike, it's about stealing any bike. So the key is to reducing the opportunity to steal your bike:

  • as you point out, reducing the amount of time to work on the lock(s)
  • make it less desirable and more identifiable (dirt, scuffs, mods)
  • give alternatives - parking next to a shiny newer more expensive looking one with a poorer lock

I would also say to try to use a public bike rack - then you've also got a chance that a fellow cyclist would interrupt or at least deter a thief. Several times I've seen someone suspicious loitering around a bike rack when locking/unlocking my bike and I've taken longer about it so as to make them feel uncomfortable and move on. I don't want my bike nicked and spending a few minutes to maybe slightly protect someone else's makes me feel like a good citizen.

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thanks I just read the other post. My main problem is that the bike is quite attractive since I use it for mountain biking over the weekend and for commuting on week days. I've theft insurance and I use two D-locks gold secure. The bicycle is no more than two hours on the streets a day but I'm always worried when I leave it. I suppose is nothing else I can do :) –  yeforriak Sep 25 '12 at 10:57
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If it especially desirable I would also suggest that you mix up where you leave it. If a would-be thief sees it day after day in the same place for a similar amount of time, that could be quite a risk. –  Unsliced Sep 25 '12 at 12:03
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Personally, I wouldn't commute on a bike that is "attractive." I'd invest in an inexpensive commuter, either hand-me-down or cheap-off-the-rack, especially if I lived in an area with a high incidence of bike theft. There's a big difference between having a $200 bike and a $2000 (or more) bike stolen. –  jimirings Sep 25 '12 at 14:35
    
If bike theft is a issue in your town, you would do best to make sure your bike doesn't stand out quality-wise from the others. If it is a nice bike, it is only a matter of time before a thief spots it and comes up with a way to snatch it. It might not necessarily be opportunistic either, if your bike is spotted in the same place at the same time, the thief has time to figure out how to best defeat your locks, time things perfectly and perhaps even find a buyer in advance. –  Angelo Sep 25 '12 at 15:27
    
@jimirings, I get your point but unfortunately I have limited space in my flat. –  yeforriak Sep 25 '12 at 15:28

In the end it might matter more WHO is around the rack (policemen, guards, janitors, public workers, parking lot workers, hot-dog stand owners, etc.) than HOW MANY people.

I'd rather, when available, leave my bike under one lonely ever-present alert pair of eyes than in a crowd of anonymous passers-by.

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Chain your bike to a dog and no one will touch it. –  emory Sep 25 '12 at 23:58
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Try that in NYC and someone will steal the dog. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 26 '12 at 11:27
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Perhaps using a poisonous snake instead of a chain... :oP –  heltonbiker Sep 26 '12 at 13:13

I've seen videos showing people stealing bikes amidst a crowd of onlookers while no one intervenes. Locking in a crowded place isn't necessarily going to save your bike. On the other hand, lots of bikes are stolen from locked garages.

I'm not aware of any statistics about what storage method is safer. I've never had a bike stolen, but from what I've heard in my social circles, most people's bikes have been stolen while they had locked it up during an outing in the evening, or overnight. It's always "when I left the bar it was gone," or "in the morning it was gone." For this reason, I think it's safest to bring your bike into your home overnight.

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I agree that the lack of data is a problem, so I'll over a nice counter anecdote to yours. I've had my handlebars, levers and cables removed from my bicycle during the few hours it was locked up, moderate traffic, middle of the afternoon. see this related post: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/10396/… –  alsothings Sep 25 '12 at 17:03
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I've seen a bike secured with 3 locks, where the suspension fork had been removed. –  Portree Kid Sep 26 '12 at 12:38

I would say a quieter place is better.

less people see it, less likely a thief see's it also.

I have had a bike stolen, well a bike wheel actually, stolen from outside my offices - in front of a security guard and cctv camera (both useless it would seem).

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A visible bike, is one at risk. A bike hid well out of sight, is only vulnerable to (money needing) substance abuse users, thief's or burglars - some of the people who could go maliciously creeping around buildings, alleys, etc. Choose wisely! –  wonea Sep 26 '12 at 14:07

Is this link any use? This ex-bike-thief basically says to lock your bike the busier the better.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2010/sep/13/bike-thief-stolen-tips

As I have posted on here previously, I think if someone decides they are going to go out of their way to steal your bike, I'm not sure you'll be able to stop them. But presumably your bike is/will be insured? If so, read the policy thoroughly and make sure you comply with the minimum specified security requirements. At least if it does get stolen you'll have some compensation.

In my case the policy covers the grade of lock I need to use (in the UK there is a standard called "Sold Secure", its arguable whether locks that conform to this standard are better than locks that don't, but it is a standard that appears to keep the insurance companies happy), what I lock the bike to, and how long I can lock it for.

EDIT: If the link above was useful, there's a further excellent link from the Guardian - How to protect your bike from being stripped for parts

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Its really not sure, both way have their own disadvantages.

I will say never park your bike anywhere, where there is a chance of you losing its sight, whether busy or quite place.

When you have to be permanently out for several hours, then

  • Find a good secured parking spot to park your bikes.
  • There should be a guard around or someone who is responsible.

    • make sure he knows you have parked a bike.
    • Or, you can also ask him to keep an eye on the bike (depending on the nature of the person)
  • If its possible, make irregular visits to the parking spot. Confusing the thief.

  • Complete your work and rush to your bike :)

At my city, I park around a firm thing. Whether poles, or railing, to increase the difficulty (but its not allowed everywhere, so not so helpful).

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Hal Ruzal, a bike security expert, has a series of videos on YouTube, some of which are done in conjunction with the police.

In one he answers just this very question. His answer is not what you may think and does not match the current top answer here. He says it is much better to lock it in a quiet area. This is because the thieves are more edgy in terms of being seen or heard. In a busy area they are not noticed and the noises and things they do blend in with all else that is going on.

He has spoken to thieves and knows how they work / think. He often grades bikes based on how well they are locked. If you can keep your eye on it then that is a different matter of course. And of course it must be locked to something secure which may also determine where you lock it.

I would also add that locking it next to other bikes does not work as some answers suggest. As the thief blends in. You look and think he is just unlocking his bike next to yours - but he is after your bike! I once came out of an office where I locked my bike next to others to find a guy suddenly jump. I swore I saw him trying to unlock my bike and move away. He seemed to then pretend he was unlocking the bike next to mine! I was not sure so just left it as my lock and bike were not damaged. He may have been trying to pick the lock. But it shows how they blend in this way.

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This answer would be better if you linked one of his videos and formatted it with paragraphs so it was more readable. –  Batman Oct 2 at 2:28
    
Welcome to Bicycles Andrew. I did a little formatting and added a link to give you an example. Feel free to change what I've done if you think I've broken your post, or you can add better links. –  andy256 Oct 2 at 6:58

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