I've experienced one of the greatest injustices a cyclist can face: my bike was stolen. Well, not stolen per se, but almost. And my lock, my beautiful steel u-lock that cost me $32.99 plus tax at Bicycle Garage Indy was ruined. What follows are the facts, as I see them, with regard to this near-tragic incident.
I was visiting the Indianapolis Athletic Club on Meridian and Vermont Streets. I rode my bike to meet up with a colleague. As I approached the intersection, I looked around for a good, safe, secure place to lock my bike. With no bike racks in sight, I headed to the fence surrounding the IAC parking lot. Three signs hang on the wrought iron fence. Two read: "PRIVATE PARKING All Violators Will Be Towed." The other simply had the Athletic Club initials.
I thought to myself, "Is this a risk? The sign says no parking, but surely the use of the word 'towed' implies the message is meant for car owners." And in a split-second, I made the choice to lock my bike to the fence. I would be there for less than an hour, and surely the Athletic Club would be sympathetic to bicycles. In fact, I was shocked that this athletic club did not have bike racks available for use. After all, biking is good exercise.
Cut to 45 minutes later.
Exiting the building, I see a maintenance worker, who shall remain nameless, wheeling my bike away from the fence. In one hand, he wielded a small power saw. In the other, my poor, defenseless bike being man-handled by a stranger.
"Hey!" I screamed desperately. "That's my bike!"
I ran to the man, and grabbed my bike from his hands, sadly asking, "Where's my lock?"
"I had to cut it off," he explained. "The board doesn't like bikes locked to the fence."
He went on to explain to me that on a weekly basis he has to cut bikes from the fence. He stores them in the basement of the IAC saying, "It's surprising, no one ever comes back to claim them."
Shocking! In my disbelief, I simply took my bike and left. I thought to myself, "Of course no one comes back looking for their bikes. When you lock your bike someplace and come back to find it gone, the assumption is that its been stolen. If I had been a mere minute later in returning to my bike, I would have thought the same. My livelihood depends on that bike. I saved money for six months to afford it. A weekly basis? How many bikes has the IAC been "storing" in their basement?"
I was outraged.
In my ire, I tracked down the email to the management of the building: a one Chris Noll of Ardsley Management. I told him my story and inquired about the basement full of bikes.
This was his reply:
"The IAC's parking lot and adjoining fence is private property and we do not allow items to be chained to the fence. Removing an item chained to the fence is a rare occurrence which happens only a handful of times a year. There are a grand total of two bicycles in our storage area that were removed from the IAC's private property and never reclaimed."
First of all, I read the signs. I am college-educated person, with a background in literary analysis. When I read the signs (pictured), they were not clear to me. Yes, the parking lot was private, but I locked my bike to the sidewalk side of the fence. And granted, the fence is IAC property, but it does not say no bike parking. It doesn't even say "no parking," just that violators will be towed. Who would call a tow truck for a bike?
Secondly, Mr. Noll claims that the maintenance man has only cut two bikes from the fence this year. But in my brief conversation, he definitely used the term "weekly."
Something isn't right here. And I aim to get to the bottom of it. So, if anyone has any information about bike theft around the Indianapolis Athletic Club parking lot, please contact me.