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Gear Prudence: My kid bikes to his elementary school (we go together) and his is the only bike locked up outside. I worry about how safe it is, so when he’s in class, I drive back and pick up his bike. Then I drive back before the end of the day and lock it up where it was so we can bike home together. He has no idea how far I go to prevent him from the potential devastation of a stolen bike. I’m beginning to wonder: Am I being one of those crazy moms they’re always talking about on the message boards? Should I stop the charade and leave the bike there? —He Even Leaves It Chained Outside; Parent Takes Extraordinary Responsibility
Dear HELICOPTER: It’s great that your kid bikes to school. It’s healthy and “green” and fun and all that crap bike people drone on about. It’s less great that his biking to school still requires four car trips, the same number it would take if you just drove him. If you’ve got the time in your day to ferry the bike back and forth, far be it from GP to call you crazy. Plenty of theft-averse bike commuters would love the peace of mind of a private bike security guard. Have you considered advertising your services? Throw in an occasional wash and chain lube and there’s a real business plan here.
Let’s suppose that you will eventually grow tired of the back and forth. To leave a bike outside and unattended (even if well-locked) is to leave it vulnerable to thieves. With enough time, the right tools, and gumption, all locking methods eventually succumb. And if his is the only bike locked up, you can’t even rely on the old trick of being the second-most-stealable bike. Maybe school administrators would be willing to keep the bike inside, but there are plenty of good reasons why they might not (including the fact that they have perfectly good bike racks outside). Finding a bike rack with lots of eyes on it during the day would be useful, but it doesn’t solve your underlying problem: The costs of the bike being stolen (emotional and/or monetary) feel too high to you. Until those change, you’ll always be able to justify your actions.
So here’s what you do: 1) Set aside a few bucks a week until you can cover the cost of a replacement bike, and 2) start stealing other precious things of his to habituate him to loss. Disappear a treasured stuffed animal or two. Maybe a comfort blanket goes missing. That way, if his bike is eventually stolen, he’ll be so used to the fickleness of worldly possessions, it won’t sting at all. OK, don’t do 2. That’s actually crazy. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who writes @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.