Off Beat: Bike safety, including theft deterrents, gets people out pedaling

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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Bike Clark County Founder Eric Giacchino is no stranger to bike theft. A fleet of bikes used by the organization for an after-school bike education program was stolen out of the empty Hough Pool on Aug. 9.

He took a bike of the same model to display at last weekend's Vancouver Brewfest on Saturday, where the organization was offering free valet bike parking. People were very sympathetic about the loss, he said.

A lot of people are afraid to ride their bikes somewhere and leave them unattended because they might get stolen, Giacchino said. Even when bikes are locked up, parts and accessories are prey to theft.

"There are so many expensive things on people's bikes now," he said.

Lights, reflectors, bike pumps and speedometers can be detached from a bike. Expensive parts, such as carbon fiber wheels, saddles, or handlebars can be unbolted and removed in a few steps. A bike with expensive add-ons may be worth up to $10,000, he said.

"Somebody's spending $400 or $500 on a wheel, they're going to protect it," Giacchino said.

Companies in the bike industry have tried to combat theft by making small cable locks to tether parts like seats and wheels to the bike frame.

But bike theft is like car prowl, Giacchino said, and there's only so much an owner can do to protect their property.

When Bike Clark County provides valet bike parking at local events, Giacchino said, it encourages people to get out and ride without worrying about theft.

Providing valet bike parking also helps the organization connect with people who might want to volunteer with its after-school bike education program. Since the program happens when school gets out -- around 3 p.m. -- it can be hard to find available volunteers, Giacchino said.

The organization checked in nearly 90 bikes at Brewfest this month -- its highest number yet -- and has also handled bike parking at the Six to Sunset concert series and at Fort Vancouver's Fourth of July celebration.

"It grows every year, which is a reflection to me that it's working," Giacchino said.

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.