On Legislation Defining “Chop Shops”

Credit: SFMTA
Photo courtesy of the SFMTA.


Below is the letter Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier sent on behalf of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee on July 7, 2017 regarding the committee’s consideration of legislation defining “chop shops” on San Francisco streets.

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Dear Chair Farrell, Supervisor Peskin and Supervisor Tang:

The problem of bicycle theft in San Francisco is a serious one. While data is incomplete, and thefts often go unreported, we do know from surveys that being the victim of bicycle theft or the fear of theft is the second most-common reason people cite for not riding a bike in San Francisco after safety. Worse still, those most impacted by bicycle theft are those who are least able to afford a replacement bike and rely on their bicycle as transportation to work, school and beyond. For these individuals, their bike may be the last lifeline allowing them to hang on in an increasingly expensive city.

Real and urgent solutions to the problem of bike theft are needed. Unfortunately, Supervisor Sheehy’s proposed ordinance targeting “chop shops” does not meet that bar. Instead, it focuses resources on the most visible symptoms of the problem without addressing their cause. Accordingly, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition cannot support this proposal in its current form.

Chop shops, or assemblages of bicycles and/or bicycle parts in open view on our city streets, are without a doubt the most visible symptom of bicycle theft in our city. They are frustrating reminders of many problems that our city is facing, including homelessness, opioid addiction, displacement due to increasing costs of living, and the lack of affordable transportation.

In a 2013 memorandum to then-Supervisor Eric Mar, the City’s Budget and Legislative Analyst proposed a range of options for the Board of Supervisors to consider in combating bicycle theft. Some, like the establishment of a citywide bicycle registration program, have been achieved and made an impact on the recovery of stolen bicycles. Others, such as the creation of a bicycle theft unit within San Francisco Police Department, consistent analysis of bicycle theft data, and more open source information of stolen and recovered bicycles have been halted or never implemented at all.

In addition to these ideas, we call on the City to combat bicycle theft in a manner that focuses on the market for stolen bikes: the individuals who purchase stolen bikes to resell, often online or in other jurisdictions. Other cities across our country have had success with this approach, and we believe it would enjoy broad support on this Board and among the community.

In addition, we believe that prevention may be the most resource-effective method of combating bike theft, and we call on the city and the SFMTA to increase attended bike parking at transit hubs and in City-owned parking facilities, as well recommended in the 2013 BLA report. We will continue our work to help individuals request municipal sidewalk racks and bike parking corrals as well as educating thousands of San Franciscans every year on secure locking techniques.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition would enthusiastically support legislation that addresses the above strategies.


Brian Wiedenmeier

Executive Director  

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