The story of a blind Los Altos man whose only mode of transportation – a $3,000 bicycle – was stolen is shaping up for a happy conclusion.
Los Altos police recovered Brian Higgins’ Litespeed titanium bike after the 61-year-old U.S. Navy veteran-turned-inventor discovered it for sale on eBay. The discovery and subsequent recovery occurred just one week after Higgins reported that someone stole the bike Aug. 8 from his locked carport storage unit.
“The nagging question now is, what do I do with it now?” said Higgins, who is 98 percent blind. “Where do I keep it now? At least it’s a good problem I get to worry about.”
Higgins, the founder of Intellisight Inc., has spent 16 years developing an ultrasonic sensor that allows the blind to autonomously use bikes and some other modes of transportation.
“It detects large objects and finds a clear path for you,” Higgins said of his sensor system, which notifies a user of oncoming objects through vibration and audible warning beeps. “Ever since I lost my driver’s license in 1998 – which was devastating to me – I’ve been searching for some solutions.”
He noted that he uses the bike and sensor system daily to travel along Foothill Expressway to the Palo Alto VA hospital, where he catches a shuttle to his day job as a technology instructor at the VA Medical Center in Menlo Park. The theft was the subject of a recent NBC 11 report.
Prior to the recovery of his bike, Higgins told the Town Crier he believed that the theft was targeted. He said thieves cut through the storage unit’s attached locking mechanism to get to the bike, and also stole $1,000 worth of tools. Higgins discovered his bike missing from the storage unit in the early morning hours of Aug. 8 as he was preparing to bike to work.
Reached by the Town Crier, Det. Abe Velasco said Los Altos Police executed a search warrant to recover the bike Thursday after Higgins contacted them about the eBay listing. Velasco noted that Higgins was able to confirm that the bike was his by pointing out some of its specific characteristics, seen in pictures on the listing. The following day, he added, police arrested a 36-year-old San Jose man on unrelated narcotics charges, who they believe may also be linked to the bike theft.
Velasco declined to provide additional details about the case because the investigation is ongoing.
“What’s unique about this case is that the victim was able to assist to the point where he was able to identify specific (things) from the eBay ad,” said Velasco, who added that the bike is currently in police custody as evidence but eventually will be returned to Higgins.
Higgins said that while he was pleased police recovered his bike, the theft left him cautious about where to store it in the future.
“This was a life-changing event for me,” said Higgins, who moved to Los Altos from Maine approximately 10 years ago. “Maybe it shouldn’t be, but for me it was.”