How to hang on to your brand new bike

This spring, while the gyms were closed, everyone went out and bought bikes. Welcome to the fold, and congrats on your new bike!

Here are some great ways to help protect your investment from theft. 

Insure the bike with your renters’ or homeowners’ insurance. Your insurance agent will need a photo of the bike, the serial number, purchase price or value, and make/model/year. 

Buy a really big lock. Even better, buy two different kinds of big locks. Register your key with the lock company. Sign up for their theft protection plan, if they have one. Using two different types of locks, like a U-lock and a chain lock, means that a thief might have to use two different tools to steal your bike. 

Do not buy a cable lock. They are the easiest to defeat, and some can even be cut with fingernail clippers. Get a U-lock or chain or armored cable. Get something better than big-box brand chain. You will need to go to a local bike shop to find this stuff.

Your kids should lock up their bikes, too. The best lock is the one they can carry and use.

Practice good locking strategy. Lock in obvious, well-lit places. Lock to permanent objects, even if it means you have to walk a little further to your destination. Lock through the frame first, wheels second.

Lock the bike every time you walk away from it. Even if you’re popping into the store for just a few minutes.

At home, always store the bike indoors, or under a cover. If you can avoid it – never leave your bike outside at night. But if you must leave it outside, lock it well, and also use a tarp, a motorcycle cover, or a grill cover. Try to find one without any branding. 

When you have time, write your name and address on a piece of paper, and stick it in a ziplock bag. Then, take out your seatpost, and tape it inside. Double-insurance in case your serial number can’t be identified!

Keep the bike locked up when you’re not riding it. Even if it’s indoors. Lock it to something permanent if you can. 

Secure your apartment/house/storage area. If your bike is on the balcony, make sure the bike is covered and out of sight. Keep your doors locked and windows closed while you’re sleeping or away from the house. 

Register the bike with with photos, make, model, and serial number. 

Add a GPS or Bluetooth tracker to the bike. Tile is cheap, and the more people who have it, the more effective the network becomes. 

Always lock your bike. Thieves are opportunists. Your bike is secure as long as someone else has locked their own bike a little less secure.

Sheldon Brown’s clever lock-up style.

For even more tips, read Saint Sheldon Brown’s page on lock technique. Pay close attention to his U-locking strategy — it is very clever.

Plus, there are about a million other resources there, it’s a great spot to learn.

If the worst happens, and your bike is stolen, you need to act quickly. 

File a police report with the make, model, color of the bike, description, and serial number. Keep track of your police report number. If you can, have the police meet you at the site of the theft. If they already have your bike – and the info matches up – you might get reunited! Do not call the police to chase down a thief. You are calling the police so that your insurance company has a paper record of the theft.

Notify your insurance company of the bike theft. 

Advertise locally of the theft – with a clear photo and description. (Facebook, Craigslist, Letgo, OfferUp, eBay, others)

Check with local residents or businesses to see if anyone has camera footage during the time your bike went missing.

Notify your lock company of the theft – with photos of the remains of the lock, if any.

Trawl local sales sites for your bike. There’s a chance it’s already listed for sale! 

Watch your neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods for your bike. There’s also a good chance it hasn’t gone far. 

Ultimately, just lean on your insurance. Be glad you had that policy – and use it to upgrade your wheels. 

Tears will be shed. But would you rather be crying, or riding a new bike?

If you didn’t have insurance, start over with a budget bike from the Topeka Community Cycle Project, and a really good lock.

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter. Every person, regardless of race or background, should have a fair chance at the American Dream. But many people never get that fair chance.

In this moment, 2020, we have mountains of evidence showing that, due to systemic racism and violence, Black Americans are not on equal footing with their counterparts of other races in the U.S.

If we truly believe in freedom for all, we’ve got to do better.

With this platform, Bike Topeka, and within our Strong Towns Topeka group, we are committed to anti-racism.

Value per acre – what did we learn?

During our Strong Towns discussion on Zoom last weekend, we looked over the three-dimensional value per acre map that group members developed. With property tax data from every parcel, we were able to see the highest-performing properties in the city.

In the map below, red properties are bringing in a lot, orange properties are somewhere in the middle, and yellow or green are non-taxable properties.

Parcels in Topeka are mapped by property tax per acre. Mapping tax per acre – rather than just total amount of property tax per property – shows our most valuable styles of development.

The most valuable building in Topeka is the Mills Building, at 901 S. Kansas Ave., which brings in more than $640,000 per acre per year for the city. It’s the highest point in the map above, and as you might have guessed, it’s right in the heart of downtown.

The second most valuable property in Topeka is the Hill’s office building at 8th and Van Buren.

Two things these buildings have in common? Office buildings on small lots with high building occupancy.

There are some other prosperous areas in Topeka, but one additional surprise was that the Westboro Mart shopping area at Huntoon and Oakley brings in more taxes per acre than Walmart on Wanamaker.

We also had some surprises looking at residential properties in Topeka. We first looked at the Rockfire development, east and south of Lake Shawnee at about 45th and Croco. These are large homes on cul-de-sacs, with contemporary construction, and large lot sizes. These big, modern houses bring in more than $6,000 per acre per year to the city.

Rockfire development – $6,000 per acre value to Topeka.

Conversely, homes in the Holliday Park neighborhood, which are mostly a century old, smaller houses, and on much smaller lots – bring in more than $8,000 per acre per year to the city.

Holliday Park – $8,000 per acre value to the city.

So, what did we learn?

Smaller, older homes in the middle of Topeka are more valuable to the city’s bottom line – than new development out on the fringe.

In addition, older buildings in the middle of downtown bring in more money per acre than anything in any other area of Topeka.

We have got to re-consider our development pattern in Topeka and Shawnee County and start making changes.

There’s even more to the value per acre discussion that we have not yet covered, which will show even more contrast between these two neighborhoods. We have only looked at revenue – we have not looked at the city’s costs to keep these properties functional. Because Holliday Park is in the middle of the central street grid, part of the original town, and because lot sizes are small – the city’s liability – its potential cost for maintenance of this neighborhood – is relatively small.

Because Rockfire is far away from sewer processing and water processing, these homes have many miles more of pipe to serve them than do homes in Holliday Park. In addition, there is much more square footage of street serving each house in Rockfire. Even at more than $6,000 per acre, the houses in Rockfire will never generate enough tax revenue in their lifetime to pay for replacement of the street they are built on.

The City of Topeka must do everything it can to encourage continued development in the middle of the city, and to discourage any development out on the edges of town.

The potential gains – or losses – become exponential.

What should we build in the next 50 years in Topeka? And how should we build?

This conversation is continuing in our group, and we would love to have your voice. Join the discussion at the Strong Towns community site, or in our local Facebook group.