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Earlier today, I had to leave my bike in the street to run some errands. Just after I was done attaching it to a barrier, a person came to me and asked me about my kryptonite lock as he was locking his own bike next to mine (it sounds mundane, but it's what got me thinking). When I came back a few minutes later, he had locked his bike to mine in addition to the barrier as you can see here:

enter image description here

I waited for him for a while but he didn't show up and I needed to go back to work so I left. To my knowledge, there are two options:

  1. he did it on purpose so he could come back later to steal my bike (but in this case why did he engage me at all?)
  2. he did it by mistake and is eventually coming back for his bike (preferably by the end of the day)

Should I just go 'fuck this guy's bike', rent an angle grinder and cut open the lock?

Additional informations: it's a quiet street, the barrier is in front of an elementary school and the police was no help at all as they told me they don't recommend damaging someone else's property, but that I would probably not get in trouble for doing so in that case.

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  • 6
    The chipped paint on his bike makes me believe that this is a careless person who made a simple mistake (your option 2). I think the right thing is to wait a day and hope he comes back and unlocks it. There is a very small chance that they have registered the frame number and you can get a phone number from the police.
    – Michael
    Jun 13 at 15:51
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    The other bike is somewhat more valuable than yours based on new pricing. It looks very much like a careless mistake, though very irritating. You will have to exercise some patience and forgiveness!
    – Noise
    Jun 13 at 17:30
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    Call "The Lock picking Lawyer". But, seriously, a capable locksmith may be able to open the other person's lock without destroying it, and re-lock the other person's bike. You may need to provide proof of ownership of your bike, though, so the locksmith knows they're not actually helping you steal a bike.
    – Jahaziel
    Jun 13 at 22:38
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    @shoover the one that has two locks attached to it
    – aljgom
    Jun 14 at 5:03
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    "...but in this case why did he engage me at all?" Here's an interesting idea: to establish an alibi for something else. In Higashino Keigo's novel The Devotion of Suspect X, the murderer wanted to make it look as if the crime was committed one night later than it actually was. As part of this, he steals an old beat-up bike that was secured with a chain, despite their being several newer unsecured bikes at the railway station, as he need to be sure that the owner would report it to the police. (He used the bike to move the body, then dumps the body and bike, to establish the fake date). Jun 14 at 22:20

4 Answers 4

19

Another option if you're planning on cutting the lock, and don't want to leave their bike unlocked:

  • Rent cutting tool and remove your bike
  • Lock the other bike with your lock
  • Find a good hiding place for the key somewhere near (or find a friendly store that will remain open and ask if they can hold on to the key)
  • Leave a note on their bike explaining what happened and with your number to text you so you'll tell them where the key is
  • Use your bike to go buy a new lock for yourself lol
  • When someone texts you, ask them to identify themselves by asking them to describe what their lock used to look like. After someone identifies themselves correctly, give out the location (or send them an elaborate treasure map)

If you don't want to donate your lock

  • find a place nearby that is willing to hold on to their bike
  • leave a similar note for them to text you to get the location of the bike

Also, if you really want to, you could try asking them to send you an electronic payment (cash app, venmo, paypal, crypto, etc) to cover the cost of the lock and the cutting tool rental, before you give out the location

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    I'm going with this answer. I like the idea of not leaving someone else's bike unattended. For those who are looking for some closure: in the end I didn't have to do anything. When I got back to my bike, the person was just hanging there. He apologized profusely and offered me a meal at his restaurant as compensation. A friend told me that the whole thing was in fact a ruse to get me to have dinner with him and I don't know what to believe anymore.
    – Dorian
    Jun 14 at 7:52
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    What a plot twist. Sounds like a very effective pickup technique lol
    – aljgom
    Jun 14 at 8:27
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    Effective if you think starting off a relationship by really pissing off a total stranger is a good idea. I do find it highly implausible just from the photo that someone could have done that by accident though. Maybe a chain/cable lock you could make that mistake, but you'd have to be next-level absentminded to not see the other bike inside the U-bolt style locks. Jun 14 at 16:18
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    First he controls your bike, then he controls your life. Sounds like a real sonofabitch. Jun 15 at 10:06
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    @Dorian Yeah, if he ends up stealing your heart please report back, so we can add this to our list of bike scams to watch out for...
    – Michael
    Jun 16 at 15:29
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I've heard of this being a tactic to encourage you to accidentally leave your bike unlocked, so they can come back and steal your bike later, but on balance it could just as well be accidental.

If you think it's the former, then cut their lock and leave it behind.

If it's just a mistake, then waiting it out is inconvenient but the polite answer. Supporting this is that your bike isn't a fancy race bike and probably doesn't have a high value to a thief, and that if redbike-rider was standing on the far side of barrier, they might not have even seen your greybike's top tube for the black barrier in the way.

Yes, it's really annoying, but "never attribute to malice that which is explained by stupidity" or Hanlon's Razor.

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    It's not that the thieves who employ this tactic are trying to get you to leave your bike unlocked. They're hoping to wait it out and come back at 2 am when the victim and no one else is around.
    – Paul H
    Jun 13 at 21:24
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    @PaulH Why would the victim be around at 2a.m.?
    – Michael
    Jun 14 at 1:30
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    No. They're hoping the victim and all other crowds leave. Then at 2 am, they can cut the victim's lock with relatively little risk of getting caught.
    – Paul H
    Jun 14 at 1:37
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    In other words, if you rely on your bike for transportation, you're not going to wait around forever for someone to remove their lock from yours. You have to be a work in the morning, so you assume good faith, take a bus home, and figure you can come back for you bike in the morning. Only overnight, the thief unlocked their bike, and then cut the lock on your bike to steal it.
    – Paul H
    Jun 14 at 1:41
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    @PaulH ah gotcha... them cutting your lock is the part I was missing.
    – Michael
    Jun 14 at 1:47
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Destroy the offending lock. You are wasting time and energy worrying about his feelings when it was his mistake that cost you time and money.

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    It can be a good thing to be kind to others even when others make mistakes. When the time comes that it is you the one who makes a mistake, you would likely prefer that people still try to look out for you as opposed to not
    – aljgom
    Jun 14 at 14:14
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    I'm willing to lose a lock over a dumb mistake.
    – Kaz
    Jun 15 at 8:01
  • @Kaz I think the worry wasn't that much about the lock, but instead about leaving the bike unlocked, so potentially losing a bike not just losing a lock
    – aljgom
    Jun 16 at 8:04
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Your options are:

  1. Wait it out
  2. Cut/break/grind the lock

Those are the only two reasonable options I can think of.

I would wait it out unless there is some compelling reason to damage the lock and leave the other bike unlocked.

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