Beach councillor loses bike to City Hall thief

One week after a thief stole her banana yellow bicycle from a rack at city hall, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon is trying every avenue to get it back: police, Tweets and a reward of muffin treats.

But so far, the Ward 32 councillor is still on borrowed wheels.

“I loved riding on it,” she said, adding that the classic ladies’ style commuter was a birthday gift from her family. “I felt like Mary Poppins flying downtown.”

Besides the fun of it, McMahon said she relies on cycling as her main mode of travel from spring to fall. She worries that theft might keep others from doing the same.

“Of all the places to feel that your bike is locked up safely, it would be City Hall,” she said. “You have surveillance cameras, you have security guards, you have a highly visible location on a bright sunny day and oodles of people enjoying the square.”

Despite the extra eyes, last Tuesday was the first time McMahon locked her $500 bicycle outside city hall. She usually hauls it up to her office or down to the councillors’ supervised parking area.

Dex Prandovszky is a sales rep at Cycle Solutions, the Kingston Road bicycle shop where McMahon went last week to find out her bike’s make and model (a Giant Via).

In the end, Prandovszky said McMahon’s usual strategy is the best way to go.

“Any lock, unfortunately, is a deterrent,” he said.

Still, for any bike above $500, Prandovszky said it’s worth looking at a U-lock in the $60 to $100 range.

Made of hardened steel, a good U-lock should resist grinders and bolt-cutters but have enough flex to resist lever attacks as well.

Thieves have been known to pop off U-locks or even a whole ring on one of the city’s ‘lollipop’ bike posts using two-by-fours, Prandovszky said.

That trick is harder to do if the U-lock is small and snug around the bike frame, or if the bike is locked to one of the newer ‘lollipops,’ which have no exposed rivets.

As for how to lock the bike, Prandovszky said it’s best to pass the lock through the rear frame and wheel while using lock-in skewers and maybe a cable lock on the front.

In McMahon’s case, Prandovszky was able to find her bike’s serial number and register it with Toronto police even after it was stolen.

Police all across Canada now share a single bicycle database, he said, and it’s easy to register online.

Between 2009 and 2011, Toronto police received more than 3,000 reports of stolen bikes each year, with the highest number of reported thefts in 14 and 51 division.

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