Bike Lost Forever?
September 4, 2007 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Is My Bike Lost Forever? A long tale of suspicion, woe, and revenge...

My bike was stolen from where it was locked outside my workplace on Friday; the lock was cut (there was a little piece of it on the ground when I got there, like the ear in Blue Velvet).

Back story:

There is no bike parking where I work. I've been locking up to mid-block city-owned street signs (like "No Standing") all year. At first I parked in front of the residential hi-rise next door to my office, but every week their maintenance crew would bury my bike in the sacks of garbage they put out on the curb. So I moved down the street, and began parking in front of what eventually became a hotel after construction finished.

After over a month of parking there during work hours I was confronted by the doorman, who bore a message from the manager telling me I was not allowed to park there. I knew the signs were city property and told him that, as there was no bike parking on the block, I would be parking here and there really wasn't anything either they or I could do about it. I have to park somewhere, after all.

Last week he confronted me again, saying his manager would have the lock cut if I didn't stop parking there. I explained again that the signs are city property and that even if the cops came through to collect "abandoned" bikes, it wasn't likely they'd do so during the regular business hours I parked there. I told him I'd make an effort to come in and speak with his boss about this sometime soon.

Two days later, Friday, I parked somewhere else, across and down the street a ways, not wishing to anger the manager further until we'd had a chance to talk. However, THAT was the day that I returned after work to find my bike missing.

I called the police precinct to see if it had been collected, but they said they had no bike matching my description. At this point, I don't know whether my bike was just genuinely stolen (as happens all the time in NYC), is lost in the bureacratic shuffle after having been taken by the cops, or has met with foul play on the part of the evil hotel manager. You have to admit, it's a pretty strong coincidence: two days after he threatened to have my bike taken away, it was gone. And yet, that was the one day I WASN'T parked in front of the hotel...

Are there any other ways I can approach the police about this, or other departments to check? How should I approach the hotel manager and find out whether he even actually called them? If he did, what can I do about it? If he didn't, should I still suspect foul play on his part?
I know I may just have to move on, but it's a bitter pill to take because my bike commute was often the best part of my day, as opposed to taking the subway during rush hour, which never fails to be the worst. Any advice is welcome.
posted by hermitosis to Law & Government (19 answers total)
First of all, sorry about your bike. I've also had a bike stolen so I know how much it sucks.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is much you can do here. Stolen bicycles are a pretty low priority for the police in the first place; I think the chances of them putting a crack team together to perform a full CSI-level investigation are pretty slim. Plus, the evidence against the hotel manager is circumstantial at best. Let's be honest: stolen bicycles are a pretty common occurrence, particularly in a major city, so it's not as if this hotel manager is the only logical person in the entire metropolitan area of NYC who could have done this.
posted by The Gooch at 9:11 AM on September 4, 2007

I think you need to get a new bike. Maybe a folder you can take inside. I feel for you, but you are indeed screwed.

You could ask the doorman or manager for your bike, but I don't hold out much hope.
posted by cccorlew at 9:16 AM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: I'm not dealing with the police as if this is a theft, I'm looking into whether they themself collected the bike as part of an "abandoned property" sweep. The city does this from time to time to keep old abandoned bikes from littering the sidewalks, but inevitably other bikes get picked up in the process, which often go unclaimed as their owners assume them to have been stolen.

I'm not sure whether I will bother to report the bicycle as stolen.
posted by hermitosis at 9:16 AM on September 4, 2007

If, after a few days it doesn't show up in the abandoned sweep, re-report it as stolen.

if you're gonna be a statistic, might as well get counted.
posted by notsnot at 9:39 AM on September 4, 2007

I'd go ahead and report it as stolen. Yeah, you're probably just SOL, but you never know, and sometimes stolen goods get found and returned to their rightful owners. It can happen. Also, a cop friend of mine once told me that you should report every incident like this, even if you feel like it's hopeless, because this is how the local cops decide which areas need more coverage, etc. You're helping the cops help you by letting them know that bikes are being regularly stolen in your area.

Also, evil manager guy? It seems unlikely that he would have called the city on you given that you weren't parked at the disputed sign. More likely he would glance outside, not see your bike, think, "Ha! I won!" and that would be that.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:44 AM on September 4, 2007

There's no reason a manager, any manager, should be a weiner about public parking. It's not his street, it's not his sidewalk, and it's certainly not his sign.

I'd call and do a little social engineering to find out who the manager's boss is. Then I'd send that person a nice letter on my work's letterhead explaining the situation, only instead of saying "it might have been him", make it "I've been parking here for months, and now it would appear your manager has had it removed." Say that it's unfortunate that their chain has decided that they won't be civil to neighborhood business people, and that it's really going to be unfortunate if you have to pass it on up the line that your company certainly won't be using their chain of hotels any more. Include names, including random door guy #47, and end with "I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter."

Of course, that probably won't get you anywhere, but it's a little Karma for Mr. Manager.
posted by TomMelee at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2007

Ask the manager if he took your bike. If he says he didn't, and the police didn't pick it up, your bike was stolen.

There's no good reason not to report it either.

If the manager DOES have your bike, you should raise hell. Demand compensation for the lock and subway costs. Complain to the police and the hotel management, etc. Don't let this guy push you around.

It sounds like it was stolen, but the classier bike thieves will just pick the lock and leave it intact. I don't know what kind of lock you had so I don't know if that's even a possibility. A hotel manager might just have maintenance take an angle grinder to it.
posted by polyhedron at 10:19 AM on September 4, 2007

Craigslist usually has good prices on replacement bikes, but I am not sure how you determine if the CL bikes are hot or not.
posted by craniac at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2007

Are you saying that the manager could see you park your bike further away? And that he might have gone and stolen it somehow, possibly with the help of the maintenance crew, out of spite?

Obviously this is possible, but then you have to weigh the chances that you might get your bike back by confronting this guy (which are slim; even if he did steal if out of spite, he'll probably keep it out of spite or just be too embarassed to admit to it) versus the loss of dignity you might suffer by confronting him in a Larry David-like fashion. Although if it would be cathartic for you to confront him, then by all means go ahead.

It sounds like he didn't call the police on your bike, unless the cops in question really don't give a shit. So my speculation would be that the bike was just stolen. Sorry.
posted by creasy boy at 10:33 AM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: To clarify, I don't necessarily think the hotel manager has, or even stole, my bike. I suspect that he called the police and reported abandoned property on our street, or maybe that he simply made another kind of phone call and had it "taken care of", a la polyhedron's speculation.

If the former, my bike would have been swept up regardless of where on the block it was parked. If the latter, he knows what mine looks like and would have been able to describe it to whomever.

I'm thinking of going over there civilly and asking whether he has reported my bike, without betraying the fact that it's already gone missing, and judging from his reaction whether to drop the whole thing.

I'd love to just forget about it, but unfortunately I can't afford a new bike right now at all, so I may as well see every option through to its conclusion, just in case. Also, my building does not allow bikes indoors under any circumstances. I have submitted a request to the city to install a rack on our street, but it takes one to two years for them to do it.

Thanks everyone.
posted by hermitosis at 10:45 AM on September 4, 2007

It seems highly unlikely to me that the manager would have arranged for your bike to be stolen. After all his essentially zero possible repercussion threat to have it removed seemed to have worked (IE: you were no longer parking in front of the hotel), why commit a felony where he might get caught?
posted by Mitheral at 11:10 AM on September 4, 2007

When you get your bike back (think positive thoughts here) talk to the building maintenance guys at your office. At my office, there are a few people to park in the loading dock I am sure with someone's approval either direct or tacit. I suspect a $20 spot to the right person will get it done. Also, I would write a note to Mayor Mike. Explain how you are doing your part to reduce congestion and help with his plans to increase alternatives to motor vehicles but you are not getting cooperation from either your building or the other folks on the street. You just might get one of his people to give you a positive solution or a rack sooner than in two years.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:13 PM on September 4, 2007

Meanwhile, it couldn't hurt to describe your plight on freecycle. You might get a free bike out of it.
posted by theora55 at 12:22 PM on September 4, 2007

Sorry about the bike. One thought - why not go ahead and have the same talk with the hotel manager you were intending to have before the bike went missing? Don't mention that it's gone, and watch his or her reaction carefully.... I also unfortunately doubt that anything will come of this, but you're going to be getting another bike, right? So you'll want to have this conversation at some point anyway. Also seconding JohnnyGunn's suggestions.
posted by zoinks at 3:07 PM on September 4, 2007

I suspect if the hotel manager did anything, it was to have the lock cut, and some opportunistic thief subsequently stole your unlocked bike. Regardless of what went down, it's a theft, and should be reported to the police as such. Mention the hotel manager's beef with you, and let them choose whether to look into it or not.

Can you get a folding bike and bring it into your office?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:52 PM on September 4, 2007

I'd send that person a nice letter on my work's letterhead

This is really, really, really bad advice.

Do not hold yourself out as acting in the capacity of a representative of a company - least of all your employer! - if you're not.
posted by dmt at 7:08 AM on September 5, 2007

What dmt said. If my partner did that, he'd possibly get fired. There are strict rules in place.
posted by Goofyy at 8:20 AM on September 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the support and advice.

When I am able to afford a new bike...eventually...I will not be able to bring it into my office, ever, even if it folds up into robot that breakdances. Security in my building is extremely tight, and no bikes means NO BIKES. I'm writing to our executive director about this, but in the meantime, I'm stuck until the city gets around to installing a rack (or I switch jobs).
posted by hermitosis at 9:02 AM on September 5, 2007

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