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Thieves Brake Code (sic)

© John Keith 2007

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We live on School Green, and I park my bike down by our car. Luckily, touch wood, thieves have left our car alone since we moved over from Sitka Square, but my bike is a different matter.

My beloved bike is an antique Apollo. It was bought new with replacement insurance years ago when my REALLY old bike was stolen from our locked storage in our apartment building in the West End. Here at the co-op, my new but aging bike has over the years lost bits and pieces not securely attached: first, a mottled, flaming red bicycle pump held tightly to the cross-bar with black electrical tape. I thought no one in their right mind would want it, but someone did. And most recently -- the front wheel. It wasn't one of those quick release ones, but was bolted securely to the frame. A few determined seconds with a wrench, I guess, and it was gone.

Now I have my bike double-chained to the wall, with an extra U-lock around the front wheel. So I feel pretty safe. I felt pretty safe.

A few weeks ago I went down to get my bike to go for a ride around the sea wall. It was low tide. You may not think the state of the tide is relevant, but read on.

I unchained the first chain. I unchained the second chain. I took off the U-lock off the front wheel. Everything on the bike looked fine, but I wasn't looking too carefully. Now I do.

I carried my bike up the stairs at the west part of the parking lot, rolled it along the sidewalk to Scantlings, and hopped on. I pedalled up to a fair speed as I went past the traffic circle and headed down the slope towards the creek. Note that -- down towards the creek. Picking up speed. Low tide.

There is a tight turn at the bottom of the road to the marina as you head east on the sea wall, so I squeezed the lever for the back-brake to slow up a bit. Nothing. The lever moved slackly in my hand.

Wow! I thought -- no back brake! But at least I have the front brake. Nope. Nothing. Picking up more speed.

They say that time ceases and your whole life flashes before you as you slo-mo into eternity. For me, time didn't cease entirely, but it did slow down enough to give me a chance to jump off the bike and brace my feet forward. I slid along the roadway wrestling the bike to a collapsing stop, an urban cowboy in a bike-roping competition. My life didn't flash before me, but the rocks on the False Creek shore certainly did. At low tide it's a long drop off the end of the marina road to the rocks and the storm sewer outlet with the broken metal stake sticking out of it. The bed of seaweed and mussels wouldn't do much to break a fall.

How could both brakes fail at the same time -- and fail so completely? Had the brake cables been cut? Was I the victim of some attempt on my life -- something diabolical out of TV or the movies?

I looked at the bike laying beside me. The cables were fine. I moved the brake levers and the callipers grasped dutifully at the wheel rims. But something was missing. The brake pads! Some sick thief had stolen the brake pads off my bike!

Ludicrously -- the thief had taken three of the pads, not four. Maybe he didn't want to leave me entirely without brakes. Or maybe he was interrupted in the deed before he could get them all -- or maybe, too, before he could stick a warning note on the bike.

Yeah, right.

Are thieves without honour? Surely they must have have some sort of code. Thieves' brake code (sic)? Yeah, sick indeed.

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