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Toronto Bike Posts Both Strong and Vulnerable

bike_post_diagram.jpgSo it’s official: the alarm about bike post security was both justified and an overreaction.
Yesterday, City officials conducted the 2×4 test on some of Toronto’s ring-and-post stands, concluding that they are brittle and can break when pried by that plank of wood. In case you were wondering, the tests were conducted off the streets, out of the scope of news cameras. Officials stated that they only know of eight confirmed cases of this happening, though the incidence is likely to increase since the Toronto Star told everyone how to do it. Still, locking your bike to the City’s ubiquitous bike posts remains one of the safest methods, save for the new bike locker pilot program.
Suggestions for improving the racks include using hardened steel for the ring section, which would be more expensive, or reinforcing the bolt joint with steel collars. Cyclists can help deter theft by locking their frame and wheel together with a secondary lock or chain, so even if the post is broken, the bicycle isn’t easily mobile.
Toronto is the North American capital for bike rack installations, but also holds the same title for bicycle theft. Much of the frustration comes from ineffective police response, as recently featured on CBC’s Metro Morning.


  • fodof

    If the posts can actually be broken in the described manner, then in what sense was the alarm ALSO an overreaction?

  • Marc L

    The “overreaction” part was in the extensive local media coverage, which treated it as if it were an epidemic problem, when in fact, it’s actually lock-cutting and lack of police action that are the primary issues. The posts are still relatively safe, though less-so now that this has come to light.
    Carrying around a 2×4 is not the most convenient thing, so I doubt this type of vandalism is going to skyrocket outside of the hardcore thieves since it’s much easier to steal bikes in other ways.

  • gassy

    U-locks are also frequently broken with a 2X4 or metal bar. They are the tool of choice for thieves. I know this because i asked one after catching him trying to take my bike.

  • Ben Wendt

    Some places have post and rings that are welded together. Maybe this would be a good alternative.
    My favourite method is to not lock my bike up anywhere that I can’t keep an eye on it.

  • Rajio

    nice stats: toronto has both the most bike racks and the most bike thefts in north america. doesnt this simply make sence? like whoever has the most teeth can masticate most effectively?
    let me guess, toronto also has the most bike related blog posts?

  • Dave

    As a Toronto native now working in real estate development in New York, I’m actually importing the bike-and-ring style to the NY metro area in new developments. It’s a great system. The Toronto version is unfortunately flawed in its casting and assembly, but this will no doubt be fixed in time.
    Meanwhile, wondering whether Toronto is better or worse than NY on bike theft. New Yorkers are so hardened to unbelievable levels of theft and vandalism that they basically won’t leave bikes outside (bike rooms are a major building feature here) and if they do they chain the hell out of them with motorcycle-type locks. There is a reason why all bike lock warranties are void in New York City… so is Toronto just hitting a natural point in its evolution to becoming a bigger city, or is there really a problem with the locks, the cops, organized crime, impoverished underclass of street people… ?

  • Marc L

    The ratio of theft to bikes is less a reflection of proportion than it is to ease of theft, and why bikes are stolen in the first place. A dedicated police unit should shut down skeezy pawn shops who deal in stolen merch, and many of the thefts are simply to get a few bucks (and we’re talkin’ few) to support drug habits. In fact, the more likely a city is to have frequent riders, the more likely it should be to have a safer choice of security options.
    There is a correlation between the number of bikes and the ease of theft, but it has many variables and is not proportionate.
    As for the construction of the post-and-ring devices, the weak point is at the two bolt joints, where the cast aluminum ring is fixed to the galvanized metal post. The actual bolts are tamper-resistant, however, and are installed with a special tool. The first photo in my previous article shows cracks in the brittle ring, leaving the post easily exploitable.

  • stef

    RE:bike rooms are a major building feature here
    -any building owner going for LEED accredation will have a bike room as well as a shower room. A wise choice and great step towards sustainability (and less smog!)
    I personally do not like the looks of the new bike lockers. While in Quebec City last summer I noticed some great examples of bike locks that would surely prevent some bikes from getting stolen.
    I personally would love to see more bike posts/area to lock bikes around the city.
    As is, i keep my bikes in my apartment, in the bike room at work (locked up) and try to lock my bike up somewhere it will be within my sight.

  • bob jones

    Why don’t the cops set up bait bikes with a GPS locater hidden them. If we can start catching bike thieves maybe bike theft will drop.

  • Sean Lerner

    When my bike was stolen from my porch, a two-by-four was left behind, along with my totally bent out of shape u-lock.

  • Marc Lostracco

    Two-by-four planks have long been used to wrench U-locks, which is why sizing is very important. The lock has to be snug enough against whatever the bike is being locked-to that nothing can easily be wedged into the U and pried open. According to a salesperson at Cycle Solutions in Cabbagetown, many people buy U-locks that are too large because they think it will offer more versatility.
    Not many U-locks have the key spindle in the centre of the locking mechanism, but these are harder to wrench than the ones with the lock in one corner, which is the weakest point of the lock. It’s also another reason that the keyhole should be pointing down and toward the inside, if possible, since it makes it harder to get at.

  • Ange

    my roomate JUST had her bike stolen from the post & ring outside her work on University Ave. A nice expensive bike with a nice expensive lock. It is probably the 10th bike stolen from our collective household, and no matter what size of lock the thieves still find a way.
    I agree with the GPS-baited-bikes to track down bike thieves and the stores who buy from them.
    Bike thieves disgust me, it’s true that they probably get so little money for the bikes, probably a tenth of the bicycles worth.

  • beijing bike

    Beijing has many guarded bicycle parking lots in high density bicycle areas. You pay a nominal fee to park it (say 50 cents) and someone guards the lot 24 hours a day. I’ve never had my bicycle stolen from any of these lots. Perhaps this is a better solution going forward for Toronto? A short footnote: a friend of mine once parked his bike in one of these lots next to a bike that had been stolen (not from a guarded lot) from him the previous year. He went to the local hardware store, bought some heavy duty cutters, came back to the lot and reacquired his old bike, without any interference from the guard.

  • Alan

    I don’t think parking meter zones for bikes is a good idea. I assume that most people here ride bikes cause they don’t have enough money for cars. And of course they won’t like the idea of paying for parking their bikes.

  • Dylanfly

    Where do you get this ‘bike theft capital of North America???’ I read that in ‘Toronto, the Unknown City,’ too. Come on! More than New York??? Please. I don’t believe it. For 2006 in the USA here’s the list: # Kryptonite’s Top 10 Worst Cities for Bike Theft: New York, NY 2. San Francisco, CA 3. Chicago, IL 4. Washington, DC, 5. Boston, 6. Eugene, OR, 7. Philadephia, 8. Oakland, CA. 9 Seattle, WA
    10 Miami, FL
    Can someone provide a little more evidence of TORONTO’s notorious status???? I’m really interested!!!

  • Amy

    A lot of thefts could be prevented if the citizens of ‘Toronto the Good’ could be bothered to say anything or maybe, say, call the police if they see some thug with a 2X4 attempting to bust open a post-and-ring in the middle of the afternoon. Chances are they didn’t just forget their key.
    I’m planning to get a little vigilante on some thug asses and hide out in some bushes. Anybody care to join?