Tuesday, July 3, 2012


After many years of non-eventful bicycle life in my family, the last couple of months have been unusual.  Today was just the topper.  Cameron called to tell me his bicycle had been stolen from in front of his summer job at the State Building.

Of course he was very upset and he was looking for a ride home when he called me.  There was no point in doing the Twenty Questions bit over the phone so I got in the car and headed to Civic Center to bring him home.  Civic Center in San Francisco is the black hole to which, as some comedian used to say, every freak, weirdo, drug addict, cult member and actor would eventually be drawn.  Cameron just wanted to go home and feel sorry for himself but I wanted to look around.  It seemed a good idea to just ask some folks if they had seen anything.  It was obvious most had been there all day and Cameron's bicycle is unusual, not in the least part because it is HUGE (he is 6'5"+).

I approached a group of teens who spend the day in the area skateboarding and jumping their BMX bikes.  They see everything because no one thinks kids are paying attention.  I gave them a description of the bike and told them it was worth $150 if they found it.  One of them took me up on it.  Two of his friends kept whispering to each other, they knew something.  I had a feeling we may just be in luck.

Next we looked for a police officer. The beat cops in Civic Center know all the bike thieves.  Just as we had hailed a police car and started filing a report I got a phone call.  I almost didn't answer it but boy am I glad I did!  The boys had found the bike, two blocks away!  The officer got in his car and said he would meet us there and Cameron and I took off across UN Plaza with a fire under us.  Somehow the officer missed the spot (it turned out that even though the bicycle was in full view, it was at an odd angle from the street and its more distinguishing features were not obvious) and I wasn't willing to let Cameron's bicycle get away.  The guy sitting in front of it was obviously under the influence of something, a lot smaller than I and very much in the wrong.  He had put a seat bag and a Kryptonite cable on the bike to make it seem more legit.  He had also covered it with dirt so it would look more like him.

Much like Andre the Giant, I can be the Brute Squad if necessary.  I wanted Cameron's bicycle and I was going to get it.  So I stepped over the guy, grabbed the bicycle saddle and said

-"Thank you for watching my bicycle!".  The guy looked at me and said

-"That's my bicycle.  I bought it 9 months ago." I  leaned on the top tube and said

-"No you didn't."  I wanted to keep him talking so the cops could show up and nab him. His next statement was

- "Can you prove it is yours, lady? 'Cause I just bought it from someone."

-"Oh yes?  That would be hard because it is mine."

-"Well I am not going to argue with you.  You can have it but you have to pay me."  He started trying to pack up his bag and get up, so I pulled out my phone to start taking pictures (my good camera got slammed into the ground last week when I got caught in the train tracks on Market St) and I told him

-"No. I am just taking my bike.  You are getting nothing."  The three boys who found the bike and several people from inside the dollar store we were in front of were watching at this point so this guy was getting frightened.  He tried to grab the bike to take it back and I got in his way. I let him take his little bag off of it to slow him down, taking pictures of him the whole time so he would keep putting his hands in front of his face.  As he started to run off, Cameron got in front of him and got a shot of his face, at which point the guy pulled a knife.  Cameron let him walk off (although Cameron is blackbelt in Hapkido and well versed in knife defense and disarming people he knows the best defense is just walking away).

The only picture that kinda came out.

Of course he got away before the officer could catch up with us, BUT WE GOT CAMERON'S BICYCLE BACK!!!!! All of its parts, all of its pieces, everything. We had to buy a new lock on the way home (we are not sure how the guy broke Cameron's Bulldog U-lock in broad daylight in front of a high security State building, but he did), but that is OK with me.  I had already gone straight to the ATM to get the boys (Adam, Mateo and Isaiah) their money.  I parted with it happily as bicycles big enough for Cameron are hard to find.  The boys were thrilled to get the money.

I told them if they hang out there like that they should make a business of bicycle recovery.  They said even though they are there everyday I was the first person to ever ask them for help.  Never underestimate the power of a motivated teenager or two!  They see everything.

Hopefully Cameron learned something today about not giving in or letting things like this just happen to you.  We got lucky we found his bike, but there would have been no luck if we hadn't tried!


  1. gutsy move~good for you.



    PS the verifications are driving me insane these days!

    1. I have not experienced the verification, but I will check it out. We had to put it on because of a flood of spambots

  2. rock on chans!
    fukc yes. y thanks for sharing this with us. hells no we dont give in.
    ade the narrative is great, i know i felt i was there to witness this whole hoopla.

    teenagers, they are special xxom

  3. Way to go! Great story. Glad you recovered the bike. And don't mess with a Mom. :-)

  4. Well done on getting that bike back! The happy ending definitely made it a great read! Knife bit was scary though!

    (Yes, these verifications are NUTS - although I'm getting them right more often than the previous version...)

  5. Well done!

    Takeaway from this: Don't be afraid to ask strangers for help. There are Good Samaritans in every shape and form.

    About 20 years I had a summer job in the federal building at Civic Center and got punched in the face by a homeless lady. I see some things haven't changed....

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  7. Adrienne!!!

    what a great story to wake up to. And I am beaming you got the bike back, not only as a lesson for Cameron not to give in, but not to give in to scum bags such as these.

    With Love from Mexico City.

    1. Tony!!!!!!! Having fun? Where is my Foreign Correspondent story? There is so much good bikes stuff going on down there!

    2. Adrienne!!!

      Lots. And you're right, many good/great bici things are happening here, and I have some great stuff to share with you ladies back in San Pancho.

  8. Awesome! Love that you went after the bike and got it back. The guy pulling a knife is a bit troubling. Glad he didn't use it.

  9. Great end result to a dramatic story. Your delaying tactics were really clever, as was making sure an officer was on the way. The knife bit worries me, too, though. Cameron showed a lot of restraint by not engaging him.

    Hope Cameron gave the cops the full-face picture. If this guy did it once, he'll do it again, and he'll be better prepared next time he's challenged.

  10. god bless america this 4th of july! as an aside, I think buildings with parking garages are also required to provide bicycle parking. ride into the garage and find out!

    1. Normally he has a magic pass that lets him park inside City Hall but he forgot it yesterday. I will remind him of the Civic Center lot which does, indeed, have parking. Not sure how good it is though

  11. Wow. great tip! i locked my bike up right in front of the gap on Powell, during lunchtime for about 20 minutes. I came out to see my seat gone and my bike frame dented in several places, assuming it hit the railing several times when it was violently wiggled it out. It 's hard to imagine all those people at the trolley watching the worst thief ever, wrestling a bike seat...and not saying a thing.

  12. I had a 1974 Fuji Finest racing bike and my landlord said "just put it on the porch on the house next door. Its safe there, I own that house". Well sure enough after a few days it was gone. I had a license on it and luckily the police found it in good shape. From then on I keep my bike in my apartment.

  13. EFF yea! So rad.

    Stinks the cops didnt nab this guy, he or the guy he bought it off is out stealing bikes now. Police FAIL.

    Also, I wonder how this works, was he the actual thief, or is he "retail." A bulldog is a pretty serious lock that I'd hope a typical dood wouldn't have the tools or skill to break. So this guy is either a skilled bike theif, or knows one.

    1. He had a bag of tools and we have a theory on how he did it that I will share this week. Getting through that level of lock is pretty amazing.