Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.
Tips from an exasperated New York City bike mechanic.
Hal Ruzal, a mechanic at Bicycle Habitat in Soho, is old-school New York City. He’s blunt, loud, and pretty much unconcerned with what you think of him. Once, when I took an ancient bike into the shop to see if it could be made to ride better, he laughed at me and basically said I should be glad the piece of junk was rolling at all.
Ruzal is obnoxiously honest and practical. Which is a big part of the reason why, over the past few years, he has become something of an internet celebrity in a series of Streetfilms videos about how to lock your bike. Now there's a new installment, out this week in honor of National Bike Month.
New York is a notoriously crummy place to lock a bike. Estimates vary, but the best guess is that at least 60,000 bikes are stolen in the city every year, with only about 2 percent of them being recovered by the owners. In 2012, filmmaker Casey Neistat repeatedly stole his own bike from various locations in Manhattan using a variety of implements, including a crowbar and a hacksaw. He didn't really attract any attention until he used a power tool to remove the bike from a subway entrance in the middle of Union Square in the daytime (the cops let him go when he explained the stunt).
Ruzal has no patience for people whose bikes are stolen because of their own stupidity or naivete. In the latest video, he grades bikes locked around Soho for their technique. “What is wrong with these people?” he wonders as he examines the defective methodology on display. He throws up his hands at the sight of wheels left vulnerable (“the reason it’s called quick release is it’s quick”), bikes chained to scaffolding (“any bike locked to scaffolding gets an F”), and a fancy Brooks saddle that is not locked to the frame (“this seat here, a junkie gets a lot of money for this seat”).
Ruzal does give an A to Citibikes, deeming them basically impossible to steal or loot for parts. He also advocates “alternate side of the street parking for bikes” so that abandoned rides don’t clog up scarce parking spots.
His core tips remain the same: Use high-quality locks, and make sure that both your wheels and your frame are locked to a solid pole or rack. Get a separate lock to permanently secure your seat to the frame.
Above all, exercise some street smarts. “Smart people aren’t getting their bikes stolen like they used to,” he says. It’s the most New York advice he could give.