Bicycles

Thieves won't like Portland's new bike racks

Thieves won't like Portland's ...
Portland's new bike-parking racks may not look unusual, but appearances can be deceiving 
Portland's new bike-parking racks may not look unusual, but appearances can be deceiving 
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Portlandians can expect to see the new racks start popping up as more municipal bike parking is added, and as existing racks need to be replaced
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Portlandians can expect to see the new racks start popping up as more municipal bike parking is added, and as existing racks need to be replaced
Inside of the rack's piping runs a length of free-floating steel wire cable
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Inside of the rack's piping runs a length of free-floating steel wire cable
Portland's new bike-parking racks may not look unusual, but appearances can be deceiving 
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Portland's new bike-parking racks may not look unusual, but appearances can be deceiving 

Sometimes, instead of trying to defeat a cyclist's high-security lock, bicycle thieves will actually saw through the rack to which a bike is locked. It's been happening in Portland, Oregon, so the city is installing a new type of bike-parking rack that just says No to saws.

Designed by the Portland Bureau of Transportation and manufactured by Oregon-based Radius Pipe Bending, the very normal-looking rack is made of 1.5-inch steel piping. Inside of that piping, however, runs a length of free-floating steel wire cable. Although saws can still get through the rigid exterior of the rack, it's very difficult for them to gain purchase on the floppy cable, which tends to just move back and forth with them.

Inside of the rack's piping runs a length of free-floating steel wire cable
Inside of the rack's piping runs a length of free-floating steel wire cable

Faced with that challenge, thieves might instead choose to remove the bolts that hold the rack to the sidewalk, so they can then slip the lock off the bottom. That's made quite difficult too, however, by a steel bar running horizontally across the bottom of the rack. Additionally, if a thief were to cut through both the piping and the cable, the rigidity added by the bar would make the rack harder to pry apart.

Portlandians can expect to see the new racks start popping up as more municipal bike parking is added, and as existing racks need to be replaced.

You can see how difficult it is to cut through them, in the video below.

Source: Portland Bureau of Transportation via CityLab

Bike rack testing in Portland, Oregon

8 comments
Jimjam
How about sticking electromagnets in the bike rack to stick bikes to it until the owner releases it using an app?
MD
Nextime use an angle grinder.. this tactic specifically works on mechanical reciprocating saws... even a hand hacksaw will work better due to the longer, effective stroke. nice concept... Another Idea, fill the pipe with cable and concrete, the concrete will blunt-en most saw blades and wear grinding disks... Either it will or it won't.
owlbeyou
Does anyone else think that the state of (bike) culture in the USA often borders on absurdity when measures like this are taken?
Kevin Ritchey
If I witness anyone hovering over a bike rack with power tools, I'm more likely to call the authorities and occupy myself with beating them senseless while waiting for their arrival. Why not fill the tubes with pressurized indicator paint so when punctured it blows a smelly indelible fluid everywhere?
MarkPikas
That's just a bad example. An angle grinder with an abrasive cutting disk will go through that with the cable faster than that Sawzall will go through just the pipe without the cable.
MerlinGuy
Perhaps, it's about saving bikes but merely saving bike racks. If the the rack is harder to break than the lock then the thief will always go for the lock. This saves the city of Portland the cost of replacing the rack. And if they only replace the ones that are cut then more savings there. Maybe it's just like the bear joke punchline - "I don't have to outrun the bear".
DouglasAnkrum
As another person already said....if a saw doesn't work, thieves will just use a battery powered grinder with cut-off disc.....something else that might slow them down, put a length of stainless steel pipe inside...it will spin around, and resist cutting for a while....but eventually they'll just end up cutting the lock off with the grinder....
chase
How about just catching some of those bike thieves and not just handing them a ticket when you do. Make examples out of them very publicly. DVR's are hd and dang cheap to come by these days. They can help.