The first was at a protest against police brutality in Brooklyn where he said he was arrested after being out past a curfew and left his bike on the street. He replaced it with an electric mountain bike costing about $800. That one was stolen, too, after he left it overnight in the street, albeit locked.
While locks are obviously a good idea, many are no match for the electric saws that thieves commonly use.
“Every lock — you can break it,’’ said Sty Gonzalez, who works at Trek Bicycle shop in Manhattan. “The stronger ones just buy you more time.”
Before the pandemic, Joe Nocella, who owns 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn, used to hear about someone getting their bike stolen maybe once a week. Now it’s every day.
“If they leave their bikes out, they have to be emotionally and financially prepared for it to not be there the next day,” Mr. Nocella said. “The best thing is to keep it with you everywhere you go. Sleep with it next to you.”
The number of bicycles, including those with electric motors, reported stolen in New York from March through Sept. 21 was 4,477, an increase of 27 percent from the 3,507 reported stolen during the same period last year, according to the police.
Those figures are likely an undercount since only one in five bike thefts are reported to the police, according to 529 Garage, a bike registry service. About 1.7 million bikes are stolen every year in the United States, about one every 30 seconds, according to the group.
Bike Index, another national bike registry group, said that between April and September, the number of bikes reported stolen to the service totaled 10,059, compared with 5,998 during the same period last year, a rise of 68 percent.
Bike theft is nothing new, but the latest surge seems to be driven, at least in part, by the shortage caused by a disruption to global supply chains during the outbreak.
Between April and July, sales of bicycles in the United States rose 81 percent compared with the same period last year, according to the NPD Group, a market research company.
“We tend to have seasons like ‘garage break-in season,’ or ‘theft-from-the-street season,’ but now it’s all seasons at once,” said Bryan Hance, a co-founder of Bike Index.
The handling of bike theft differs among police forces, so it can be hard to get a precise handle on the scope of the problem in different cities. Several police departments were unable to provide data. Some agencies will not accept theft reports without a serial number, which not every owner records.
The police force in Portland, Ore., is one of the few agencies in the country to have a dedicated bike theft unit. It reported an 18 percent increase in stolen cycles between January and August compared with the same period last year.
The chances of recovering a stolen bike are often slim. Thieves can easily and quickly sell pilfered bikes on apps and will often sell bikes to buyers in different cities or states, to lessen the chance of being caught, according to bicycling groups.