NYFD, our real bike heroes

While the NYPD is being a bunch of knuckleheads towards NYC cyclists, the Fire department continues to shine. Here is a story from a friend of mine who had her bike locked by a stranger.

From Beth O’Brien:
I locked my bike at the corner of Nassau and Java Street in Greenpoint at around 7:15 p.m. tonight. (1/26/11) An hour later I returned to find that someone had put their own lock and chain on it.

So, what do you do? My first thought was that someone might be trying to steal my bike or something off it, so I couldn’t leave it out here all night. I had to deal with it immediately. First thing I did was extend my chain to go through the front wheel as well. Didn’t want someone coming back and walking off with that while I tried to find help.

First I started texting anyone I knew who was nearby and might possibly have bolt cutters. Next, of course, I posted my dilemma on Facebook, picture included. I walked out to McGuinness to see if any of the gas stations looked promising. No luck. Of course, as in all times of trouble my phone’s battery was close to dying. I found a locksmith place a few blocks away and called. I asked how much it would cost and he said at least $40 but he would send someone over to look at it. I waited.

Eventually word spread and as my battery hovered around 7%, Mike Green called. I should’ve thought of calling him sooner. He had heard my bike had been locked up and someone was extorting me to release it. Ha! Sort of! Forty dollars seemed a bit much for the price of a snip of a bolt, so we started to brainstorm. The first idea was maybe I should call the cops. I had thought of that but decided against it, worried about the culture of antagonism between NYPD and bicyclists lately. Then Mike remembered there was a fire station nearby. Firefighters certainly had the equipment to handle something like this and might be willing to help. While on the phone with Mike the locksmith called.

He was on his way over finally. So I decided to stay and pay the forty dollars instead of bothering the firefighters. In about ten minutes a man pulled up in a silver Buick. Getting out of his car he came over and took a look at the chain. Oh, yes, we will need to cut this. I asked again how much it was going to cost and he said, curtly, “Forty dollars like you were told.” Then after mumbling something about the lock he said, “Well if you are going to pay cash I can come down as low as, say, $120.” What? Are you kidding me? $120? I was told 40! Well, it’s night time, I mean what did you expect it to cost? Forget it, I’ll find other help, I said as I stormed away. Towards the firehouse.

On the walk over the manager at the locksmiths called. “You told me it would be forty dollars!” I said. “That was to come over and take a look”. “That isn’t what I asked you. I am not paying you forty dollars to come two blocks and tell me it costs $120!” Conveniently my phone died mid-conversation, mid-yell.

At the firehouse I could see the guys gathered around a table in the back as I rang the bell. A young guy came to the door and looked at me concerned, “Is everything all right?” I explained the situation and that I was sorry to bother them but I didn’t know where to go for help. He said they could probably help but was there any way I could prove the bike was mine. Probably not possible, huh? Embarrassed, I explained that I had a picture of my bike on my Facebook page and could show it to him. It is one of my profile pictures, in fact.

He said everyone was having dinner, but he was done with dinner, but he really had to ask his boss first. He seemed eager to help but totally unsure. I waited near the front while he disappeared into the back. Shortly thereafter he returned and said that if I had the key to the other lock that would be proof enough and they would meet me on the corner in ten minutes. I asked him if he wanted to just walk over with me, and he said, no, no, we’ll meet you there.

Standing on the corner once again, I warily looked around thinking the locksmiths might come back to muscle the $40 out of me. Instead my buddy Mike Maronna rolled up on his bike, extra chains and locks in tow. If we can’t get it unlocked, we could at least add a whole bunch more so that no one can take _anything_. I laughed. It was a sweet gesture. He had been the one to alert Mike Green and showed me a text he had received from him. Something to the effect of: “Alternately we could wait around with baseball bats”

Then the firetruck rolled into view. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. Filled with guys they all hopped out upon arrival. In the swirl of guys and questions I showed them the chain someone had added, unlocked my own chain to prove it was mine. I heard someone call for the “lobsterclaw” but was distracted by Mike talking to a young firefighter about what the possible motivations of the person who did this were. A store owner nearby could be angry about the bike there. But it was parked at a legal bike rack. Maybe someone wanted to steal something from it. Maybe it was just mean-spirited.

And with that my bike was free. I thanked everyone in my vicinity profusely. And in the confused happiness of the whole scene I walked off with Mike, my bike in hand, as the firefighters put the equipment away and climbed back into their truck.

7 comments to NYFD, our real bike heroes

  • Baly

    Hooray for NYFD!

    How did you find that locksmith? Just wondering if they were the ones who put the chain and lock on…

  • z1ny

    For what the locksmith wanted, you could go to home depot and get the tools and do it yourself. For half that.

  • “maybe I should call the cops. I had thought of that but decided against it, worried about the culture of antagonism between NYPD and bicyclists lately.”

    This is the saddest part of the story. The fact that one doesn’t feel that they can seek protection from those that are sworn to protect and serve. Very sad indeed.

  • Skinny John

    Locksmiths will sometimes pull that bait-&-switch crap as they all charge about the same rate for their work, but some may deliberately lie when quoting rates to make customers think theirs is a better price than their competitors.

  • I hadn’t thought of someone trying to hijack a bike by locking their own lock on it – what punks :(

    As a kid I always put the chain through both wheels, or in our neighborhood you would be missing a tire when you came back, now I’ll have to think about looping through the seat too.

    Glad to hear you were able to get this resolved. Hat’s off to the NYFD for helping a citizen in need.

  • This is a crazy story, and it makes me sad to see the local locksmith so mean spirited when someone is being victimized by a cruel action. Doesn’t that guy know you didn’t do this on purpose? That the whims of a crazy person should not be his profited results? Thank God for the Fire Department, and I am glad you didn’t get your bike stolen.

    They would have been back…

  • tdk

    That is pretty crappy. I am suprised that having the key to the other lock was enough for “proof of ownership” as the person who put the other lock there has a key to it, how is the firefighter supposed to know which lock is the bike owners.