Sacramento cyclist helps bike community organize against thieves
Thomas Blough is at the beginning of a long journey he’s navigating on two wheels.
Frustrated by the fragmented nature of Sacramento’s cycling culture and the inability of local cops to stop bicycle bandits, the Midtown transplant has created Walk the Wheel (http://walk-the-wheel.blogspot.com), a hub for all things cycling related.
Blough, a self-described lover of the pedaled wheel (he says his favorite music is by “anyone who writes cool songs about cycles” and his favorite book is The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt) isn’t the area’s first cycling champion to put his efforts into a website. But the 29-year-old father, who spends his Thursdays as a volunteer mechanic at the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen, may be one of Sactown’s most committed spokes-men.
“I like bicycles,” he said simply.
Blough’s Web page is similarly modest, with its oatmeal background and orange and green text. It already has a number of active links running, but still has its training wheels on.
Ultimately, Blough’s goal is to have others update and moderate his Web page to include a calendar of cycling events, helpful links, cycling news and, especially, stolen-bicycle resources.
The gray matter is there, but there’s still much to do, like reaching out to local bike shops and cycling clubs, talking with police about a bicycle LoJack system, and getting under-the-radar organizations like the Bicycle Film Festival, some much-needed wheelie love.
It’s an uphill ride for a Web page with only 41 Facebook “likes,” especially one geared to such a particular audience.
Sacramento’s cycling community is an eclectic, niche-oriented one, agreed Walt Seifert, executive director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates. His group focuses on making cycling a person’s main mode of transport, but there are clubs for recreational cyclists, BMX riders, mountain-bike riders, bicycle messengers and social riders, like the Tweed Riders, a group of cyclists that gets dressed up to pedal.
Bringing this community together may be daunting to some, but Blough is a guy who dreams of doing the two-day Seattle-to-Portland ride on a unicycle. “It’s a fun method of travel. It’s a little absurd—and absurd things are good.”
Except when they’re bad.
“Stealing someone’s bicycle is pretty absurd to me,” he said.
That’s why he has focused most of his time fleshing out his website’s stolen-bicycle resources tab, which offers links to filing online police reports and a Google map of two-wheel larcenies.
“There’s really not a lot that’s done for stolen bicycles in this town,” Blough said.
The Sacramento Police Department recorded more than 409 stolen-bicycle reports last year, following a five-year high of 616 in 2008, according to spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong.
“I don’t have recovery numbers, but unless you have a serial number, we won’t be able to recover it unless your bike is so unique that we can show it to be yours,” Leong said in an e-mail. “Lock your bike, write serial numbers down … look for your stolen bike online (Craiglist) if stolen. We don’t have resources to really investigate bike thefts, especially since most cases don’t have investigative leads.”
Seifert is philosophical about the problem. “It’s a problem everywhere. I think everyone that has had a bike has had one stolen.”
It can especially be a problem on college campuses. At Sacramento State, the campus police department log for the four-day period between August 29 and September 3 included four stolen bicycle reports. One of the reports was taken the night of September 1 outside of Draper Hall, where the reporting party discovered the purple Schwinn he borrowed from his roommate went missing. Seifert said the UC Davis requires its students to register their bicycles, which has resulted in a slightly higher rate of recovery.
Registration is Blough’s advice, too, and he offers the phone number where people can register their bicycles on his Web page.
Having a solid lock and available bicycle racks or parking is also important, according to Seifert. His group has helped with the latter, offering valet bike parking for free during Friday night Concerts in the Park at Cesar Chavez Plaza. SABA’s portable bicycle trailer—think of it as a hat check for your wheels—will also be available at the Crocker Art Museum’s grand reopening celebration on October 10.