Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's a Zoo Out There, Don't Use Cable Locks

Insert bike into slot A, pivot bar B through wheels and frame into locking chamber C, secure with owner's padlock D

The Phoenix Zoo is a super bicycle friendly place. For one thing, you can take your own bike inside, and ride it everywhere, if you feel like it. I wouldn't recommend doing it on a crowded spring Saturday in mid-March, but on a quiet summer day, it could be a fun way to go and observe the different ways the animals beat the heat.

For another thing, though, there's these interesting bicycle racks. I don't recall seeing them other places, but then I don't exactly have a catalog of bike racks or anything. They've been here at the zoo for quite a while, anyway. The most interesting thing about them is that all you would need to lock up your bike here is a good padlock. No chain or cable needed! But the concept doesn't seem to have caught on, neither in widespread use of the design other places, or even people using their own padlocks in this rack.

Cable-locked in a padlock rack

Also cable-locked. Take a look at how many racks there are here.

At least for some bikes, those bars capture both the front and rear wheels, although for the bikes pictured, none of the owners chose to use the racks in this way, or else their bikes didn't quite fit, I'm not sure. But one thing I am sure of: those cable locks are almost useless, except for just-a-minute lock-ups to get a coffee or something. And I'm not sure how a good padlock inside one of these protector cages would compare to the security of a u-lock in a conventional bicycle rack, but I am confident a padlock would offer much more security than a cable. I almost want to print up cards to stick on bikes in racks, "CABLES ARE USELESS, GET A U-LOCK" or something along those lines. Maybe with a 'tube link to a video like the one below--not even a bolt cutter, just a brake cable cutter! Yeah, I had a bike stolen once locked up with a cable, and they left the cut-up cable behind just to teach me a lesson. Which I learned. Get up. Go ride.


  1. I needs me a set of Pedro's cable cutters!
    For my own personal use don't you know.

  2. We have some padlock racks at train stations. They look different than your zoo racks. Totally agree about cable locks - even for a coffee stop, they are barely adequate.

  3. I just got back from the weekend on Van. Isle with my bike - wondered why my stuff is so heavy for just an overnight ride, and its my lock. I keep looking at cable locks with envy as they are light in weight, however, as you state, they offer next to zero protection.

  4. PaddyAnne, certainly their light weight is the only positive advantage of cable locks. But in the "wrap it around and lock it" pattern, you end up having to resort to something like a high-security hardened chain that weighs in at over 1 pound per foot, plus a super padlock, to offer some sort of resistance to thieves.

    Steve A, pictures of said padlock racks pls?

    limom, we've all be there before at least once.

  5. We have similar padlock racks in some of our parking garages in down-town Louisville. When I used to work late at the bank during my last incarnation (as a software guy), I often locked my bike in one of them. They're in a lighted space protected from weather and at least occasionally patroled by building security, which I found comforting.

    Next time I'm down there, I'll try to get pictures.

    I have a little cable lock that I laughingly call my 'polite suggestion.' It's in no way intended for long-term use, but I figure it's better than nothing when I stop for coffee or whatever on a long ride, as long as I can stay near (and in sight of) the bike. Even then, though, I feel a bit queasy walking away from my one of my beloved machines when locked only with the Polite Suggestion.

  6. Update: The glowing comments of the first paragraph are now largely reversed: you can't take your bike into the zoo any more, and it's not a very bicycle-friendly place. It's felt like the end of something wonderful. I don't go as often as I used to, because of that.


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