Public Safety

As Charlotte becomes more bike friendly, thefts rise

Plenty of cars but few bikers using the bike lanes along Statesville Road, Thursday, June 25, 2015.
Plenty of cars but few bikers using the bike lanes along Statesville Road, Thursday, June 25, 2015. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Building a more bike-friendly city can mean a lot of things for Charlotte – healthier people, less congestion on roads and cleaner air.

But police are warning people that the increased interest in cycling presents a bigger opportunity for criminals.

Bike thefts are on the rise. Through June, police have investigated 169 bicycle thefts, compared with 145 during the same period last year.

There were nearly a hundred more bike thefts in 2014 than a year earlier. And between 2008 and 2014, bike thefts have jumped more than 56 percent.

That number is threatening to increase as more people hit the road on two wheels. In 2003, Charlotte had one mile of bicycle lane. Now, the city has nearly 200 miles of bike-ways, signed routes on low volume streets and off-street bike lanes.

And city leaders are still working on the Cross Charlotte Trail, 26 car-free miles that will stretch from I-485 near Pineville to the Cabarrus County line. Some of the trail is already completed, and other segments could be complete in two to three years.

“Charlotte is building the infrastructure to make cycling better,” according to Linda Durrett, the spokeswoman for the Charlotte Department of Transportation. “In the coming years, the city will increase its inventory of bike lanes, signed routes, paved shoulders and bicycle racks.”

Eastway Division Officer Eric Riley has been going to community meetings this week warning people to take extra precautions with their bikes.

“Around Johnson C. Smith and UNCC, bike thefts are a major problem,” Riley told members of the NoDa community earlier this week. “Of course you know the light rail is coming through here. Folks are going to be parking their bikes here.”

He singled out the NoDa area, which has had 15 bike thefts so far this year, nearly half the total for the Eastway Division.

Most bike thieves in Charlotte are teenagers looking to joyride or others who see a quick crime of opportunity. But police say the thefts are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

For example, one man, Brazell Young, has been connected to 27 bike thefts, Riley said.

Over the years, as Young’s arrests stacked up, pawn shops and scrap yards stopped taking bikes from him. So Young recruited homeless people to pawn the bikes for him across the city, Riley said.

“If someone steals a bike, and they can sell it for $5, that’s a $5 profit,” Riley said.

Protect Your Bike

▪ Record your bike’s serial number and other distinguishing details. Police recommend taking a picture of your bike’s serial number and e-mailing it to yourself. Police can quickly search a database.

▪ Consider storing your bike indoors.

▪ There are services that will install a special GPS tracker on your bike, to recover it if it’s stolen. CMPD Officer Eric Riley recommended SNAGG.

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