Poorly-locked Tern GSD e-bike parked at the library

Would you go find the owner if you saw a poorly-locked expensive e-bike?

Poorly-locked Tern GSD e-bike parked at the library
The Tern GSD, as seen at the library


If you saw a nice $$$ bike that was locked poorly, would you let the owner know? And how?

I was in a situation a few weeks ago, and was wondering what others in the bike commuting community would do.  I posted this question on Reddit, and will share some of the general sentiment of the responses as well.

I rode with my child to the library to drop off a slightly late book (sorry!) and pick up one or two new ones.  I found this Tern GSD (I assume worth like $4k-$6k) locked to the bike rack. It's a nice bike, so I checked it out for a while and then noticed some problems with the locking:

  1. The cable lock went around (not through) the frame and then through the U-lock.

  2. The U-lock was of questionable quality, and went through the bike rack and through the front wheel of the bike, but not the frame.

  3. There's a wheel lock on the front wheel, but the key still inside of it.

I think that one could have swung the cable over the handlebars, took off the front wheel, and then probably be able to walk away with the rest of the bike.  If you're curious, there are some good bike locking resources here and here.

Bike Locking Tips courtesy of Bike East Bay https://bikeeastbay.org/theft

It looked like it was used to get multiple children around, and knowing too much about local bike thefts in Oakland, California, I got worried for the owner. I debated whether to look for the them inside the library and give them some locking tips. I didn't want the bike to be stolen now or on future errands, but I didn't want to be an annoying and intrusive bikesplainer who should mind their own business. I asked my child what they would do, and they said that I should find the owner. So I did.

The owner was easy to find, they were near a bunch of bicycle helmets.  I let them know of their locking situation. I apologized if I was telling them something they already knew, and said that I know it's a special bike that they use for errands with their kids and that I was concerned about bike thefts and wanted to make sure theirs didn't get stolen. I told them that they should make sure the U-lock goes through the frame and the rack. They said that they thought they did, but then thanked me. I walked away feeling unsure but hopeful that I did a helpful thing.

What did other people think about this bike lock situation?

"Good idea, we have to help each other out"

It seemed that most people thought it to be a helpful thing to do to let someone know, and would appreciate it if they were on the receiving end of that advice.

"Maybe leave a note?"

A less intrusive way was suggested: leave a note.  Some argued that this would make the bike more visible to potential thieves, while others wrote that a determined thief would still make an attempt to steal the bike, regardless of whether a note was left.

"Mind your own business / people should learn the hard way"

A few commenters thought it better to mind your own business because either the owner probably knew what they were doing or if they didn't, then they would learn the hard way.  Many of these were downvoted though, so I think this does not reflect the overall views of many who ride their bikes.

My thoughts

I think that the increased popularity of e-bikes has made them a viable option for running errands around town with kids, but not all new-ish riders have had the opportunity to learn best how to secure their bikes.  And it's even harder to think about locking a bike properly if you are simultaneously tending to the needs of two young children.  Bike East Bay offers theft prevention webinars and perhaps cards or flyers with the "Lock it! Don't Lose it!" locking strategies could be presented to those who leave their bikes in public spaces.


I’m trying to make it easier for families to ride bikes together by sharing experiences and developing helpful products.

Or follow along for updates:

2 thoughts on “Would you go find the owner if you saw a poorly-locked expensive e-bike?

  1. Reply

    […] A bike AirTag mount can help.  When I first moved to the area, I was so worried about theft, that I bought a second “beater” bike to get around town. I bought a good U-lock to […]

  2. Reply

    […] Something to avoid when locking your bike […]

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