Last week my nicest bike, a road bike with carbon fibre forks, was stolen.
I rode it to the station, locked it on a bike rack and … when I returned it had gone.
I parked it there because it is 10 metres from the entrance to a train station and in full view of a shop. Between the presence of the shopkeeper and the near-constant foot traffic to the station, I figured it was pretty safe.
I was wrong.
Someone approched the shopkeeper and said they had lost the key to the bike lock, which was why they had a hammer and chisel with which to break my cable lock.
The first thing I did was call the police.
The next thing I did was log on to Sydney Cyclist and the Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club‘s forums to report the loss. And of course I Tweeted about it on Twitter, which quickly offered all sorts of solace and suggestions.
The immediate outpouring of sympathy was just what I had expected and hoped for, in a needy kind of way. And the “I’ll spread the word” and “I’ll keep an eye out for it” sentiments were definitely what I wanted when I let people know about the theft online.
What I did NOT expect was that Sydney Cyclist members started offering money towards a new bike. In $10s, $20s and one $50 they raised $120 as gifts to buy me new wheels. Just how touching that was, I cannot begin to describe. But suffice to say that when people you may or may not have met in the real world reach into their pockets to help you out, you feel very good and very humbled at the same time.
Others on the two sites started to suggest possible locations that stolen bikes have been known to turn up.
I followed those suggestions and, happily, recovered the bike.
The first thing I did was Twitter it. And as soon as I found a moment, I got onto the DHBC and Sydney Cyclist sites to let those communities know about the good news. Suffice to say I felt the love again.
Some members of the social networks are now networking in other ways to take steps to restrict the market for stolen bicycles.
Thinking about it now, I find it simultaneously remarkable and natural that I turned to social networks so quickly in this situation. I wanted to share events and emotions with people that matter to me – even if only because they have taken the time to join the same online community as I.
I’m now trying to figure out how I feel about socialnetworking’s role in the incident. It says a lot about the things I use social networks for and the power of those networks. It makes me wonder if I should explore more networks to tap into their power for other occasions in my life.
Above all, it cements the power of social networks for me while also re-enforcing their social nature because this was a social transaction, not a for-profit use of a network.
Many, many thanks to anyone who contributed to helping me find the bike, or participated in discussions about it!
Postscript: Since I got the bike back, our iPod has died. We ripped all our CDs and stored them in the shed three years ago. Looks like the household will be making another purchase soon after all!