Cassidy Deline, The Stanford Daily, reports:

Ever since BIC pens worth pennies have proved capable of defeating expensive, steel bike locks, campus cyclists have worried about the safety of their bikes. [Ed: What about the bomb?]

$80 to $100 locks are rendered useless by the barrel of a pen. On a campus where the average student is already a victim of bike theft at least once in their four years, this news has many worried.

The lock sabotage method was posted on a San Francisco cycling Web site, BikeForums, two weeks ago and has since prompted a full recall by the leading maker of U-locks with circular keys, Kryptonite. The company plans to give costumers new locks at no charge.

“I just got a brand new bike that I paid $200 for,” freshman Marina Scannell complained. “I bought the lock, which guaranteed that your bike wouldn’t be stolen and now I feel like it could be stolen right away.”

Christian Parker of the Campus Bike Shop affirmed this fear, saying that he has seen a student break a U-lock in about 20 seconds using the pen method.

“It’s crazy that you can break the unbreakable lock with a bit of plastic,” freshman Amy Briggs said.

Parker claims that the bike shop hopes to be able to replace all U-locks on campus, regardless of where the lock was bought. However, they have not yet negotiated a deal with Kryptonite. Also, anyone hoping to exchange their lock needs to register on the Kryptonite Web site.

It will take several weeks until new, alternative locks are manufactured and distributed, and BIC-resistant brands of locks — including On Guard — are sold out at the campus bike shop.

Jeff Selzer, from Palo Alto Bicycles, said that most local shops are also sold out.

“We have no U-locks left,” he said. “Everyone rushed in and depleted everything we had.”

However, Palo Alto Bicycles, like many stores, is receiving a new shipment of locks later this week that cannot be picked with a BIC.

This still leaves the majority of students who use the U-lock formerly touted by the university with less high-tech methods of protecting their bikes.

Because cable locks can be easily cut, Parker claims the best defense against bike theft is to simply make bikes ugly. There are spray paint stands at bicycle registration sites that help to make bicycles less attractive to potential thieves.

Freshman Ethan Kottke took matters into his own hands, or rather his father did.

“He went crazy with the spray paint,” Kottke said. “My entire bike is covered. I really don’t think anybody would want it now though.”

Campus police predict that, despite the new inefficiency of U-locks, bicycle theft will not increase perceptibly, notably because thieves are said to steal based on the bike, not the lock.

A spokeperson from the police department stated in an e-mail that if a bike thief sees a bicycle that they want, they are going to take it and there have always been methods of that-from grinders to car jacks.

Senior Erem Boto agrees.

“There are so many better bikes on the rack than mine, I don’t really feel like it is likely [that it gets stolen], or that I need to buy another lock,” he said.

Parker predicts that actual bike theft will not increase, but recreational “bike borrowing” may become more of a problem. Students may begin to experiment with their pens and take their friends bikes for a ride.

“Locks kept honest people honest,” he said. “Now the pens make it possible for honest people to be dishonest. The dishonest people are dishonest, regardless.”

October 1, 2004