Good Cop, Bad Cop

Palo Alto Police

Palo Alto police helped nab a bike thief

Two events in the past week illustrate all that is right and wrong with law enforcement when it comes to bicycling.

Here’s the bad cop routine: Officers of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department set up a checkpoint and handed out warnings to cyclists who ran the stop sign at Portola Road and Alpine Road in the rural town of Portola Valley. A series of dragnets involving 17 officers caught 91 stop-sign violators, fining them up to $120 each, according to an article in The New York Times.

Why this national paper would bother covering such a minor event is equally disturbing. They – cops and newspaper reporters — have nothing better to do? Cops should conduct dragnets for drunk drivers and when they’re looking for desperate criminals on the run.

Nabbing cyclists en masse running stop signs in the countryside is a waste of resources, paid for by us.

Good cops recover bike
We have good cops though, who can make a difference helping cyclists recover stolen bikes, as happened in Palo Alto, California, according to a story in Palo Alto Online News. A bicycle owner found his stolen bike for sale on Craigslist. He immediately called the Palo Alto police, who set up a sting.

When the thief showed up to sell the bike, the cops moved in and arrested him. Thanks to a surveillance camera on the premises that caught him in the act, the cops could ID the bike thief and press charges.

My stolen bike story
I had a similar experience many years ago when my Motobecane was stolen off the front porch of Jobst Brandt’s house on Middlefield Road near downtown Palo Alto. I foolishly left the bike on his front porch as the sun was going down. When I went to retrieve my bike, it was dark out and the bike was gone.

I worked at Palo Alto Bicycles at the time and told the shop’s head mechanic, Dave Prion, to be on the lookout for my bike. Weeks later a youth showed up with my wheels. Both sew-ups were flat. Dave recognized my wheels by a unique alloy freewheel. We called the cops.

They went in search of my bike, but this was not an entirely happy ending. The bike was not found. At least I got back my expensive Campagnolo wheels.

To this day I have nightmares of stolen bikes. Losing something you love can do that to a person.

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