Demography and Locks

Saw a large group ride going up North Buona Vista Road at about 7am this morning. About 20 riders.

Most cyclists I see on the road are expats. That is somewhat disheartening. Why are S’poreans so bound to their metal boxes? Why so timid about asserting your right to public spaces?


I have Singaporeans keep telling me that bikes are often stolen in Singapore, that I shouldn’t feel safe leaving my bike locked to a bike rack while at work, etc. Nevermind that most of them have no idea what U-lock is, and hence fail to understand the significance of my bike being the only one at the bike rack at work that is secured by a U-lock. They seem to think that other places, where bikes are much more common, have no such problems. A friend who has been cycling in Chicago told me that he thought there were relatively fewer bike thefts in Singapore, just because most bikes in Singapore are locked so badly that it must be because no one actually steals them. It is true that they’re locked extremely badly. Cable locks can be cut in a minute, and most people don’t even bother to thread them through the right parts. There are bikes that I see locked to the rack through just their front wheel, leaving the rest of the bike to be stolen. There are bikes that aren’t locked to anything, and only have a cable through a wheel and the frame. Anyone who locked their bikes regularly that way in Chicago would have it stolen within a week. Anyone who used a cable lock would not be able to keep their bikes for more than a month.

But I don’t think that implies that bike thefts are rare here. I am told by people familiar with the black market of stolen, repainted bikes that bike thefts are quite common. My suspicion is that the abundance of cheap bikes here often mean that for those who are lazy about maintenance and aren’t bothered by ride quality, it can be more worthwhile to buy a cheap bike, ride it to bits without lubricating it even once, then trash it and buy another cheap bike. Whereas it was more difficult to get cheap bikes in Chicago, even used. The low-end bikes there were nowhere as cheap as the low-end bikes here. And, of course, if you spend only $x on your bike, you’d hardly want to spend $x/2 or something comparable on a U-lock. Hence cheapo cable locks, which hasten the demise of the cheap bike.

I find it slightly irresponsible of bike stores not to educate customers on the security benefits of the U-lock. Sure, they think customers will be put off by prices, and would rather not scare them away from using any lock at all. But this ignorance on the part of customers is feeding the bike thieves. And, if you truly love bikes, you would not want to do that.

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