Grand Theft Bicycle: A Florentine Tradition – By Andy Shepherd

It only takes a few minutes walking the city of Florence to realise just how important bikes are to the people who live here.  For those of us who own bikes this relatively small city is made even smaller, and even a quick trip to the supermarket can be transformed from a slow, sweltering trudge to a moderately exciting, substantially quicker comute, especially when traditional Italian road laws are observed (i.e. ignoring the legally prescribed direction of the traffic).

The advantages of owning a bike are not limted to mere practicality: the world outside and on the periphery of the city are also opened up, with local gardens, rivers, beaches and trails being substantially easier to reach.  So what do you have to lose?  Go out and buy a bike!

Or don’t…  The truth is you probably won’t have it for more than a few weeks before some ne’re do well with a well equiped tool box rides off into the night with it.

With bike thefts at near comical levels, even serial victims will rarely meet their latest misfortune with anything more than a shrug and a possible, “Oh shit.  My bike got stolen again!”  Then will walk off reluctantly content in the fact that their bike is gone forever, never to be seen again.  Of course, it won’t be that last time the bike hits the streets of the city.  Within a few days it’ll be back with a new owner (and new lock), happily ignorant of the fact that they’re riding a stolen bike, and of the fact that they themselves probably won’t be its last owner.

Having borrowed one of the shiny new bikes we have in our office for a couple of hours last week I felt confident that it wasn’t at risk.  How could it be?  I’m only leaving it locked up here for an hour!  On via dei Benci too, and it’s only 10pm!  Yeah, it’ll be fiiiiinnnneee…  I won’t put any more effort into setting the scene, you know where I’m going with it.

Having lived here for nearly three years, I’ve seen countless instances of friends having their bikes stolen and invariably greeting their discovery with the usual casual acceptance.  However, this was my first personal experience of such a theft.  I returned to the place I locked the bike (in amongst twenty or thirty other bikes, most in various states of disrepair or decomposition) to the (sort of ) shock that the spot I had taken before was now occupied by a completely different bike.  This being my first experience of such an incident, I looked around the area, double checking that I hadn’t made a mistake.  However, I could never muster the confusion and anger that a similar theft in my own country would have caused.  Not that England is any safer you understand, but simply because whether you are a regular victim or not, it is a generally accepted risk of being a bike owner in Florence.

The moral of the story… Don’t get a nice bike!  Crap bikes live longer!  Now I’m going to the hardware store to buy me some bolt cutters… I’m clearly in the wrong business.


18 thoughts on “Grand Theft Bicycle: A Florentine Tradition – By Andy Shepherd

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