It happened in broad daylight. And no one paid attention.
At about 10:30 a.m. on October 21, I visited the Granby Hub, which is situated in the eastern suburbs of Toronto. It offers innovative community programs and is particularly proud of its bicycling course.
A short while earlier, my 11-year-old son had strapped himself into the saddle of a bicycle. He often works with the children there on a number of occasions during the school year.
The municipal inspectors had failed to follow the basics of bicycle maintenance, like properly fitting a seat, a handlebar and foot pedals. Such infrastructure allows children to enjoy cycling from city to city.
But my son took a spill in the path of the city inspectors, who promptly stripped his bicycle away.
So imagine my shock when I came across a video I had taken moments earlier of my son in the saddle, and then instantly found my cellphone buried inside a conch shell at the end of the Granby Hub’s five-centimetre wide and two-meter long pier in the middle of an empty pond.
But what I watched was not my son riding his bike. It was his brother riding his bike in the same upright position.
I went on to find another foot pedal, another upright seat, a storage bag containing an oar and a set of stop-start pedals.
And in the two-and-a-half seconds it takes for children to push off on a bicycle, clean out the pedals and climb on the saddle, I had seen more than enough evidence that this was my stolen bike. It was instantly identifiable.
So what do you do in such cases?
Every year, dozens of tens of thousands of bikes are stolen in Canada. You can put the total number of stolen bikes into the hundreds of thousands, considering the number of people in the country who own a bicycle.
The bicycle industry association estimates that one bike is stolen every minute in Canada.
This means, across the country, thousands of bicycle thieves are actually defrauding the rightful owners by pocketing their belongings.
I received my bike back, so I was glad to have it. The real question is what’s wrong with a bicycle inspector simply following procedure?
Unfortunately, the answer lies in a multitude of issues, including inadequate policing and weak legislation to prosecute these individuals.
Unfortunately, the real question is what’s wrong with a bicycle inspector simply following procedure? What’s wrong with followage? What’s wrong with ignorance of the laws?
Let’s start with education.
Government has a responsibility to instill the importance of cyclist safety in our children. We are in the 21st century. This is one of the biggest “no-nos” facing our cycling community.
Public education means that municipalities and police force designate dedicated cycling staff to make sure that municipal infrastructures are up to the mark.
We also need legislation that will hold bicycle thieves accountable. Here, in Ontario, there is a common-sense bill that currently awaits the spotlight of the provincial justice committee.
Legislation requires cycling registries and bike helmet laws, an unusual standard considering our country’s fraught history with cycling deaths. Our bikes are worth way more than property, and we have an obligation to make sure they are done with minimum injury.
Ultimately, public education and education is critical if we are going to see our cycling community flourish into a top-rated family recreational activity. Bicycling has the power to bring communities together, so we must look out for one another.
If not, our cyclists and bicycle thefts will continue to rise, and riding a bicycle may be as easy to take from someone else as buying a gas can.