A few months ago I had my rear bicycle wheel stolen leaving me stranded. A few months before that, the part of the front wheel that keeps it on the bike was stolen, also disabling the bike. I've seen friend's bikes completely stolen off the rack, often in the middle of the day in a heavily trafficked area. It always infuriates me and I dream of being able to catch someone in the act so I can stop them and, if I'm feeling particularly vengeful, punching them in the nose.
Today I was walking though Yerba Buena park to get lunch when I saw a somewhat disheveled man with a crooked cigarette and a coffee walk up to a bike rack and crouch down next to the lock. There was a conference at Moscone Center so lots of people were walking around, sitting on steps and eating lunch. The only reason I noticed him was because he looked a little strained in his crouch. Then I saw the flash of the wire cutters and a short *clip* and the cable lock was cut. "Hey!" I said as I walked directly up to him:
Me: Hey man, what do you think you're doing?
The man jumps up, his coffee spills everywhere; he's confrontational:
Him: This is my bike
Me: No its not, I just saw you cut the cable
We go back and forth a bit with him denying what I saw and then:
Him: Common man, I'm just trying to get by.
Me: I don't care. Walk away.
Him: What's it matter to you anyway, its a rental.
Me: I've had my bike stolen before. It sucks.
Him: Oh ok, yah.
Me: Now walk away
Him: Its cool, you don't have to get down on me
I stood by the bike and watched him walk away until he turned the corner of the next building and was out of sight for at least a minute. I looked around me; nobody had noticed, nobody cared. I had fulfilled my dream to save a bike, but now I realized that I couldn't protect it forever. I had no idea when the owner would return. Here it was with a broken lock in a sea of indifferent people and I was on my way to get lunch. I'd leave and 10 minutes later the homeless guy would be back to pick up where he'd left off.
So I did the only thing I could do and left for lunch. I was sure that I had done all I could but I was also thinking what was the point? I had bullied some homeless dude who probably wouldn't change. I had temporally saved the bike but for how long? At the very least I had done something and I guess that's enough.