Honor thy bicycle

Jeff Selzer once strapped his $2,500 racing bicycle to a bike rack in downtown Palo Alto – for four months.

Amazingly, though perhaps not to his surprise, the only thing stolen was the seat post. That, he said, is because the bike was attached to a Bike Arc, a modern contraption for bike locking that he helped co-invent several years ago.

The metal rack prompts users to push their bikes up an arc. According to Selzer, it “puts the bike on display.”

The theory: A 1982 study by social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling alleges that a building with, for example, 30 of its 50 windows broken will prompt additional broken windows. A building with no broken windows, however, indicates to passersby that someone must value that building. Therefore, it inhibits damage because you wouldn’t want to be the first to break a window.

“Every culture honors what’s most important to them,” he said, pointing out that cars get their own parking spots often marked with pavement striping. “If you honor a bike, then it won’t get damaged.”

Look out for the contraptions in downtown Los Altos, as Selzer said he’s talking about putting them in town.

– Elliott Burr

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