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Gear Prudence: I love my bike—a lot—but I’m really paranoid about it getting stolen. When I ride it to work, I bring it into my office. At home, I always keep it inside. I rarely ride on evenings when I go out because I’m that afraid that a thief is going to take it, and not only will I be stranded, but inconsolable. How do I get over my irrational (or totally justified?) fear of bike theft? —Seriously Terrified Over Losing Everyday Necessity
Dear STOLEN: Bike theft is an unfortunate and far too common part of urban life. And while a determined thief with enough time and effort can boost almost any bicycle no matter how fortified, there are some precautions you can take to mitigate the chances the bike he steals is yours. For example, always lock your bike next to ones that are fancier or vastly more expensive. Or put a sign on your u-lock (not a flimsy cable lock) like “Please don’t steal me,” which is both direct and polite. Be sure to lock the frame and the rear wheel to something securely bolted to the ground, preferably a bike rack instead of a signpost or fence. If you can lock your bike to an armed security guard (ask first), try that.
Many a D.C. cyclist wary of theft (including GP) look to Bikeshare as a middle ground. That way, you can still ride but suffer none of the hassles and fears of bicycle larceny. —GP
Gear Prudence: I see this all the time: The pedestrian signal changes a few seconds before the traffic light and bicyclists start to cross the street on the walk signal and not on the green light. Aren’t bicyclists supposed to follow traffic lights like drivers do?—Green Only
Dear GO: When the walk signal is activated before the light turns from red to green, this is called a Leading Pedestrian Interval. The idea is to give pedestrians a “head start,” thereby making them more visible in the crosswalk and reducing the likelihood that a driver will turn into them. The LPI also prioritizes the people walking, so they don’t have to wait for a turning driver to get through before they can start to cross the street. This arrangement has become pretty common at downtown intersections, especially in areas with heavy foot traffic.
But Leading Pedestrian Intervals are not just for pedestrians. As a result of the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013, bicyclists in D.C. can also start to cross on the walk signal and do not need to wait for the green light. This gives bicyclists the same “head start” as pedestrians and hopefully, the same safety benefits. So, while bicyclists and drivers normally need to heed the same laws regarding traffic lights (BREAKING NEWS: red means stop), this is one area in which their obligations vary. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who blogs at talesfromthesharrows.blogspot.com and tweets at @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.