Bike theft map pinpoints problem hotspots

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Courtesy Seismograph
Red circles mark locations where bicycles were stolen in 2013.
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A bicyclist in San Francisco for more than seven years who’s had dozens of bike parts stolen, Luke Whyte decided to hone his skills as a front-end developer by creating a map marking where bikes were reported stolen in The City last year.

The map, the first on his data visualization website Seismograph and published June 1, shows the largest cluster of red dots, representing all the 813 bikes reported stolen in The City during 2013, on Market Street between Fourth and Sixth streets.

“That’s where a lot of the chop shop stuff goes on and it’s such a hot spot for bike theft,” said Whyte, 31, who works at Tightrope Interactive.

The second-largest clusters were around the Ferry Building and the BART station at 16th and Mission streets — an obvious problem spot in Whyte’s mind.

“When you lock your bike all day at 16th Street station, you sort of know you’re taking a chance,” he said.

A slightly smaller blot appears at City College of San Francisco. Other areas with notable theft clusters Whyte did not expect included an area by San Francisco General Hospital and a spot by Golden Gate Park where he observed many people leaving bikes on the grass unattended.

Seismograph also created a bar graph with times of day that a bike is most likely to be stolen, based on victims’ statements. The peak time was 6 p.m., followed by 8 p.m. and 12 p.m.

The City has ramped up bike theft control, launching a SAFE Bikes registry program in February. In May 2013, Supervisor Eric Mar commissioned a bicycle theft prevention report from the city budget and legislative analyst showing a 70 percent increase in bike theft from 2006 to 2012.

The map didn’t at all surprise Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

“These are the areas we anecdotally hear a lot of bike theft around,” she said.

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