Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps's bike sits outside City Hall, stripped of its parts. (Image: Lisa Helps/Facebook)
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps’s bike sits outside City Hall, stripped of its parts. (Image: Lisa Helps/Facebook)

To paraphrase CTV News on Vancouver Island, B.C., the irony involved in the theft of Victoria mayor Lisa Helps’s bike parts during a meeting about new bike parking for the city is almost unbelievable.

That, however, is precisely what happened on the evening of Thursday, September 10, when a thief nearly stripped Helps’s bike down to the bare metal outside City Hall, making off with the components. Inside the chambers of the B.C. capital’s municipal government, councilors, meanwhile, were debating the installation of nearly two dozen outdoor bike parking spaces for a downtown development on Yates Street, a measure that was ultimately approved. Its approval, too, came amid controversy about the risk of bike theft theft, an all-too-prevalent concern in the Vancouver Island city.

Given what happened outside city hall to their own mayor, it’s arguable that those concerns, unfortunately, aren’t exactly irrational.

“I came outside after being in a council meeting all evening,” Helps wrote in a Facebook post after she emerged to find the eviscerated carcass of her bike, “and this is how I found my bike locked up right outside City Hall. Needless to say I’m feeling a bit sad. Upside — walkable city so I can get home easily by foot.” To those who made bare carrion of her steed, though, Helps had a simple message:

“But to people who steal bikes or parts thereof: don’t!”

The Facebook post was accompanied by a photo: Helps’s ride sits bereft at its locking station outside City Hall, missing more than a few of its parts. The wheels, notably, are gone; the seat has also been removed. And while it appears that the bike was too thoroughly violated to get a quick count of the stolen components at first glance, the rest of it, no doubt, didn’t fare much better.

Quickly, the Facebook post gathered steam among bike-conscious social media users in the B.C. city. In response, sympathy for Victoria’s top politician was poured out, but so, too, was a good deal of criticism about the ways many feel that the city hasn’t made bike security a priority — with Helps herself now a victim. “Secure bike lockers downtown,” wrote one commenter. “I don’t bring my bicycle downtown often because I don’t want to worry about it when I leave it behind.”

Following her brush with the vultures of bike theft, Helps reminded Victoria cyclists to register the serial numbers of their bicycles with the city’s new bike registry, an initiative of the Victoria police department. The incident also — and in another stroke of bitter irony — came two days after Victoria’s city government announced its “international dram team” of cycling experts, assembled to design the city’s new, and in many cases improved, cycling corridors.

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  • Westybuoy says:

    We tend to focus our energies on how we get the cyclist from A to B, without paying much attention to what the rider will do with their vehicle when they get to B. “End of Journey” choices determine what mode of transport you choose and if there is a safe and secure facility to leave a reliable (and maybe expensive cycle), you can choose to use your bicycle for transportation, not just recreation. Imagine if there were no car parking garages in our fair cities, the chaos and anger from motorists that would ensue!

    From the article above, it is obvious that inverted U racks are not the ideal solution for long term bike parking, and to provide every cyclist with an expensive bike locker, while nice, are space-takers only able to store a single bike at a time. There is room for all manners of secure bicycle parking and a city should have a complement of all choices, not “either/or”, but “and”.

    One of my favorite solutions is the Dutch- style fietsenstalling (secure bicycle parking facility) with an attendant present. With human presence, the opportunity to steal or vandalize a bicycle is drastically reduced. Many of their parking garages for bicycles run on the social enterprise system, employing recovering addicts, offender re-entry or people with disabilities. Would I leave my fully loaded tandem with 4 panniers in a fietsenstalling in downtown Amsterdam under the watchful eye of a former user? Yes, I’ve done it many times, there, and in other Dutch and Belgian cities without any problems.

    We do everything possible in our society to remove the human element from our transactions, paying for everything with the push of a button and a swipe of a card. It’s refreshing to have contact with another human being who hopefully shares our love of the bike.

    If we can begin to incentive the cyclist with proper infrastructure and facilities, as we already do for the automobile, we will have much more sane and enjoyable urban environments.

    Any thoughts?

  • Cyc-Lok says:

    Bike theft is such a serious problem these days, it’s shocking that so many people are just stealing bikes and parts with complete disregard for the owner and their circumstances. The sooner we can get our Cyc-Lok units rolled out the better!

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