To chase a Muni bike thief, or not to chase?

Photo by miggslives

San Francisco seems to alternate between a town of “Genovese syndrome” bystanders and Wild West-style vigilantes. To note, this tweet from @bpelletier1:

A guy stole a bike off the front of a 5 Fulton last night. Bike owner chased the man down on Market Street. What would you do?

We’ve got to wonder, too: Would you chase? If you’re smart enough to know how to get your bike on those bus racks in the first place, that is.


  • I don’t think I would. Chasing someone through downtown traffic, during the evening commute, only to be stabbed by a crazy person is NOT my idea of a fun night. That being said my bike is nothing fancy, serviceable at best really.

  • BBnet3000

    I would, but its definitely a personal choice rather than a general rule. That said, downtown with traffic is the only place someone on foot could keep up with a bike who wanted to get away (assuming the person knows youre chasing them).

  • My bike got lifted from the 38 right as it pulled into the Tenderloin. I ran off and tried to chase him down, but my out-of-shapedness prevented that from being fruitful.

    I am lucky, lucky, lucky that no more than half an hour later, I found my bike. Several blocks away. ON THE FRONT OF ANOTHER BUS.

    I had already called 311 to file a report with the police and tweeted out my bike description. A friend tweeted back and said many thieves go to the Civic Center farmers’ market for a quick hustle. I went down there, talked to security, where they said 7th and Market is where all the stolen goods get sold.

    I wait there with my brother-in-law and decide to file a report directly with Muni. As I’m saying my last sentence to Muni over the phone, another bus on another line pulls up with my damn bike on its rack.

    We stop the bus, someone gets out to grab for it, security cuffs him, bus driver says “no, that’s not the guy who brought the bike on,” he gets let go and justice will be served to the actual thief another day, probably in bad karma.

    But I got my boomerang bike back.

    Morals of the story:

    * Before anything gets stolen from anywhere, write down your bike’s serial number. Do it now. The internet will wait.

    …Back? Good.

    * If you think you can do so, get out and chase that m-fer down. Or at the very least, get out. If for nothing else but being in close proximity to the scene of the crime.

    * But before you get out, REMEMBER THE BUS NUMBER. Not the route number, the individual bus number. I think it’s a big number above the front door. If you do just that, Muni can possibly pull video.

    * I was in too much of a panic to take note of my surroundings, but knowing what time and stop (or intersection) I realized it was gone would have been very helpful.

    * If it’s near downtown, go by Market and 7th immediately. That’s where they buy and sell stolen shit. I also hear the Ashby or Richmond flea markets are rife with stolen property.

    * Call 311 and file a report with the police. I also called Muni directly and filed a separate report.

    * Before you board, lock the bike through the wheel. It won’t prevent it from being stolen, but it would slow down a thief who won’t be able to ride away with it!

  • Sally

    Of course you chase. Then beat the crap out of the punk. Serious bicycle commuters should carry a chain lock or U-lock that can be used as a self-defense weapon in situations like this.

    If you to be prepared, think about loosening one wheel or your saddle so the crook has a hard time riding your bike and you can jump him right away.

  • The chances of getting a bike back are best the sooner one acts.

    A strategy that worked for me (after losing several bikes to theft elsewhere) was to lift the chain just a bit off the front sprocket. It will catch in a getaway.

    I surprised one thief this way once when he tried to steal a bike of mine resting near me on a sidewalk. The thief blustered and was very angry– but he split fast rather than risk more trouble.

    I never had a bike stolen on a bus– although I fretted much when crowds pushed me out of sight of the front window.

    I once absent-mindedly left a bike on a 45 going uphill from North Beach. My heart really sunk seeing the bus top the hill and disappear.

    Luckily, I flagged a police car down and the two officers caught me up with the bike and I got it back!

    I was so grateful!

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