Monday, October 17, 2011

For one neighborhood, people on bikes constitute "a rash of suspicious activity in their area"

Here's a news story that will be sure to perk up your morning. I suggest you watch the video instead of reading the text. The text is an exact transcription of the video, but it's more amusing to watch how serious the people are when making their claims

For example, when Ron Von Tersh says :
"You can see them whizzing by or you know, up and down the street and they have a backpack on, you can tell they're not from around here."

His knowing nod is quite entertaining.

ABC 30: Crooks using pedal power in NW Fresno
http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news%2Flocal&id=8389633

The video ends by stating:

Now one women says she even called the sheriff's office just this morning after seeing one of these suspicious bicyclists on her morning run.

What an amazing use of police resources. I can imagine the conversation now:
-"911, what's your emergency?"
-"Help! I'm on my morning run and just saw someone....ON A BIKE!"
-"Officers are on the way ma'am, please go inside and lock the door"



Now let's actually think about this report for a second.

Is it possible that a crook may be using a bike to scope out homes? Yes.
Is it probable? Not really.

If you are an experienced crook, one that isn't stealing out of opportunity (ie, an iPod is sitting on a table), but is taking the time to scope out and plan your heist....does using a bike make any sense?

Lt. Phil Caporale claims that the crooks use bikes because they are less conspicuous. Let's think about that for a second. In Fresno, most people drive. There are plenty of cyclists, but not enough that seeing one is considered normal. Indeed, passing someone on a bike is quite the event because it's so infrequent.

So wouldn't one trying to be inconspicuous use the mode of travel most common in Fresno? Maybe a Corolla or something? I guarantee, no homeowner bats an eye when a car drives by their house. In fact, most homeowners never notice, because it's very common.

On top of that, someone on a bike is fully visible. Sex, age, skin color, hair color, etc, it's all out there. In a car? Much harder to be observed.

So no, riding a bike is not a way to be stealthy.


Now let's imagine this crook notices the home appears to be empty, and this thief wants to strike and steal all your belongings...how's he going to get them home on a bike and a backpack? Some cash and jewelry, sure, but nothing bigger than a laptop. Game consoles, TV's, movies, desktop computers....none of them fit on the bike. And he can't exactly hit more than one home at a time.

Personally, I'd be more worried about one of those highly suspicious U-haul vans. Or, simply a thief pulling up with a pickup and trailer used by gardeners. Gardeners enter unattended back yards every day, there really is no better cover.



So, why would people be biking around a residential neighborhood with backpacks at 5am or even 2 or 3am (as mentioned in a comment)?

Because of these thing called jobs. You see, not everyone gets to work a 9-5 job. And those jobs that run through the night are the ones with the lowest pay, so those working the late jobs are less likely to be able to afford a car.

Someone who works at a fast food restaurant that closes at 2am still needs to get home. Someone that cleans an office until 1am needs to get home. Someone that opens the diner or the coffee shop at 5am needs to get to work.

And since there's no bus service between 10pm and 6am, one has no choice but to drive or bike.

The sinister backpack? That is where the change of clothes (uniform) and the lunch goes.

So wouldn't these cyclists use the main streets that these residents drive on every day? Well, the only nearby east-west street is Herndon. 6 lanes of 50mph traffic, no bike lanes. Any rational cyclist will prefer to add a mile or more to their trip by detouring through a residential neighborhood than risking a road designed to freeway standards.

Would you rider bike on this road, the east-west street of choice in North Fresno...
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Or take a longer, but safer route through streets that look like this?
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The problem here is that these residents appear to believe that everyone is like them. Everyone drives, and everyone uses the fastest road possible. Everyone works from 9am to 5pm, and nobody is out past 10.

But that's simply untrue. It's sort of sad that they can live in a city with so much poverty, and so much wealth inequality, and yet not be able to think for a second that the thousands of people working minimum wage jobs to serve them don't have the luxury of leading the same life as they do, and that some people have to bike because that's the only way they can get to their job.

It's not a sophisticated plot, it's reality. And I hope these residents are ready to join it.

2 comments:

  1. Glad I found your blog. You make some interesting points. I have been bike commuting for some time now and its kinda of surreal at 5:30am. The number of cars left idling in driveways unattended is surprising. And the stealth with which you can sail through neighborhoods at that hour is amazing. I'm always impressed with the how easily I can startle squirrels and rabbits even with my bike lights. I notice a lot of things since I started bike commuting, It's like a whole other world.

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    1. I have the opposite experience now, I just started commuting on bike and I get home close to midnight. And yes, you have a much deeper relationship to your neighborhood on your bike when you can smell and hear things than you do in a car.

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