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Bicycle Theft

Chinese Culture: Bike Theft Story

Bike Theft in Beijing

Anne Lin

Picture this scenario. You return to the exact location where you parked your bike and at first glance do not spot it. Amongst the sea of bikes, you think that perhaps your own memory has failed you, or worse your eyes have fooled you.

You do a double take, then a third, and a fourth, with your heart beating faster each time you pace up-and-down the row of parked bicycles, scanning them over and over again until the daunting realisation comes over you and you accept your fate - your bike has been stolen.

You swear under your breath in a wave of frustration and anger at how this could have possibly happened and thinking of the mafan (麻烦; trouble) to come.

Cycling In The Rain.

Cycling In The Rain

Beijing Bicycles, China.

Stolen Bike Club

Welcome to the stolen bike club. You are not a laowai who has truly experienced the real China if you haven't had a rancid toilet experience, eaten a jianbing (煎饼) and soy bean milk breakfast, seen children sporting 'crack pant' fashion, and have been an unfortunate victim of bike theft.

If you're smart you might have double-locked your bike, with one lock going through the wheel and frame (remember never just on the wheel!) and another chain locking the bike frame to something immovable like a tree or a fence.

One friend once saw some guy hack at a lock with a stray brick and hammer, another has witnessed a truck double parking on the road, and people jump out grabbing locked bikes and hurling them onto the container. I mean, you learn to park smarter after this experience. I now agree that designated parking lots where usually there is an old lady or man who watches over your bicycle is worth the 2 jiao investment, knowing that it will be there after your return.

Beijing bicycles in the snow.

However you should never, ever leave your bike overnight and not in a locked bike park area. Night time is opportune crime time, where there is no guarantee your bike will be there the next morning. Even if you chain it to a fence, I don't know how they do this but from personal experience, my bike was stolen despite it being locked so you just never know.

But your biking woes may not stop there.

You can buy a second hand bicycle cheaply (I got mine for 60RMB) and be pleased at the supposed bargain with the belief that the rusty exterior will surely render it theft-proof. However, it doesn't work out to be much of a discount when every single piece of that junk bike falls part 3 weeks later (busted tires, dodgy breaks, butt-numbing hard seat) you realise you've been duped by your very own used-bike salesman.

At this point, you may realise then that perhaps the extra investment in a new bike (140RMB) may be more worth it, because at the very least you know you are getting the real deal while avoiding the lemons.

Reporting the theft to the police will not result in them finding it either, unless you've strapped a GPS system to your bike. Due to the speed at which a bike may be stolen and resold in another part of town, it is unlikely they can recover it. In a city of millions of bikes, it is the proverbial needle in a haystack.

It may be mafan to buy another bike and you may wonder at what cost it will be, but undoubtedly your two-wheeled friend will perhaps become the most versatile and useful mode of transportation during your time in the Middle Kingdom.

While taxi fares and the subway are pretty dirt cheap compared to other capital cities of the world, nothing quite compares to that carefree feeling when you're weaving through pedestrians and traffic like a local. Biking is reminiscent of the old Beijing where bicycles once ruled the roads, and it is not just a form of exercise, it is also way of life here.

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