How I got my bike back
Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you realize your bike has been stolen?
Bill Lyle had a bike snatched right from under his nose and tells of his harrowing adventure getting his stolen bike back in Vancouver's downtown east side! Here is his story:
It all happened in June 2004. I was running late for a Storyboard meeting I had down in Gastown. I'm a professional Illustrator and was hired to draw for a TV commercial that was selling a product that found studs in your walls so you could hang stuff. Anyways, I had no change for the meter and had no time to get change so I decided I couldn't take my truck down there. I figured I'd just ride my bike. I grabbed my bike and closed my apartment door when I suddenly realized I had just locked my keys inside. My key chain had the key to my bike lock. No big deal I thought.
I pedaled down to my meeting in Gastown. The production office was located down a path off of Water street. When I arrived, I put my bike up against the front window of the office then dragged a big plant in front of my bike to slow down any thieves from trying to get at it. The reason I didn't bring my bike inside was at the time I was a little embarrassed to be riding my bike to this meeting. I worked in this "slightly high brow business" and thought I had a reputation to uphold. What can I say, I didn't know much back then. I had nothing to be ashamed of though, this was a nice bike worth about a $1000. The one thing I really didn't want to admit was that it was on loan from my older sister!
I went in to my meeting which was just a room away from the lobby where I could see my bike against the glass. I was highly aware that this bike could be stolen if I didn't keep an eye on it. So there I was taking notes from a Director I was working with and every 30 seconds I'd lean back in my chair to peer through the door and make sure my bike was still there.
Everything was ok for my first 10 checks. Then the Director had a long winded bit of direction for me and I was scribbling it all down, all the while realizing that it had been a while since I'd last done a bike check. Finally, I got a moment to take a look. I leaned back... leaned back a little further.. I almost fell out of my chair when I noticed... MY BIKE WAS GONE!!
For some reason, I didn't say anything for the first minute. Then I told the Director I couldn't concentrate because I thought my bike had just been stolen. He was like, "Oh no, go check on it!"
I walked outside and was horrified. I took my eyes off this bike for a minute and a half and it vanished!
Just as the horror was intensifying, a rough looking guy came walking up to me with a bike tire over his shoulder. He was distressed and shouting in his thick french accent, "I tried to stop the guys from stealing your bike, but I couldn't chase after them because look, I have two broken ankles."
This guy looked like he'd seen better days but I thanked him for his honesty. I asked where they went and he pointed in the general direction. Just behind him was a security guard who watched over the businesses there on the path. I ask her if she had seen anything. She said she didn't but she gave me some good advice as to what happened when bikes go missing. The thieves generally take them into alleys where they show off their latest score to the others down there. It's like a, "look what I got", sort of thing. After that, they may take them to the local pawn shops to try and get some quick money for the bike. Maybe $20 is all they would want for a $1000 bike. This money would most likely go toward buying some drugs or alcohol. I thanked her and set off in my search.
As I stepped out onto Water street I was full of rage and determination. These guys won't get away with this! At the same time, I recalled an experience that a friend of mine had about 6 months previous. He had some luggage stolen out of his van one night by the Cambie pub. He went right into the heart of the homeless, asked around, got some info in exchange for cash and a few hours later was reunited with his luggage. I was looking to try to put his experience to work for me.
Before I did anything, I figured I should try the police. I called them and told them of a bike theft. What they told me was something to the effect of if I report it stolen, it will be a police investigation and if it shows up it would be a while before I'd see it again. The likelihood of them retrieving it were slim to none so I decided not to involve the police. I had to do this private detective style!
I saw an alley or two that were well populated. I took a deep breath and set forth to ask some questions to some seriously down and out people. This was a dangerous situation. As I set out, fear and reality set it, this was crazy! Also, the strong stench of urine turned me away from going forward.
After that debacle, I went into a few pawn shops and asked if anyone had seen the bike. The answer was, "No" again and again but I left some business cards with them in the hope that maybe someone would show up with my bike.
I wandered Water street for a few more minutes and was headed to the last pawn shop that I was told about. I walked in and as I was moving forward through the shop I was passed by a peculiar fellow. We exchanged eyes, it was a little weird. I walked up to the shop keeper and asked about my bike; I described it in detail. He gave me a look and said I should turn around and catch up with that guy I just passed in the shop who was now out on the street. He said that guy could maybe help me.
I ran out onto the street and caught up with that guy. I explained my situation and offered him $40 if he knew anything. He considered this then told me he could help me get my bike back.
Now I'm walking with this guy down the street. Asking him all sorts of questions. "Who did it? Where are they? What are my chances of getting it back?" Most of all I did this in a calm way, I had to play it cool. I even asked him questions about himself. I tried to make this as pleasant as can be.
We headed toward Hastings street. When we got there, he told me to wait on the sidewalk as he walked into an alley. I stood there for a while thinking, "I went from working on a TV commercial in a professional setting and now I'm in the heart of the downtown east side, fighting for my stolen bike!"
A few minutes later this guy returned to me. He told me we need to keep walking. He said he knows where it was but he wanted my money. I told him I need to go to an ATM and get the money but I wouldn't give him anything until I saw my bike.
We walked over to 7-11 and I withdrew $40 from my bank account. The guy waited outside.
We hurried back to Hastings where we walked over to a Butcher shop. The guy told me to wait inside while he went and found his people. So there I was, in the Butcher shop, trying to act natural while staring at ground beef and pork tenderloin on display. My heart was racing, I was close.
10 minutes passed and finally the guy peeked his head in the door and motioned me out.
"I have the bike, now give me the money, give me the money."
I refused until he showed me the bike. We ran across some busy traffic on Hastings and arrived in front of a bank. Inside the vestibule, behind the caged security gate was... MY BIKE!!!! I couldn't believe my eyes. The guy was on me about the money while I inspected the bike to make sure it was mine. It was mine alright, but the bike lock was missing. I told him of this and he gave me a number to reach him on; he may be able to get it. I told him I'll give him a call as I handed him the $40. He vanished into the busy street while I was left completely floored that I was reunited with my bike.
I got on it and rode down Hastings. I wondered who rode this bike last. I passed a couple of street cops and I felt obliged to tell them of my tale of woe. They raised a few eye brows at me as I explained to them that this was the ONLY way I could've ever gotten this bike back. They were impressed with my hard work but I decided to leave them before they realized I was being a jerk and arrest me.
I rode home with the wind in my hair and a feeling of total elation. Too bad I still had work to do for that TV commercial when I got home; I felt totally exhausted and ready for a beer!
When I arrived home, I tried the number that guy gave me, I wanted my bike lock back! Nobody answered the number, not sure if that was a pay phone or what. Oh well, I got my bike back and had a great story to tell, not to mention, my sister wouldn't have to kill me now that I'd be able to give her $1000 road bike back.
Bill's account is courageous and we commend him for having the guts to try to find his bike. Most people are not so lucky. If you would like to congratulate Bill, please get in touch with us.
We hope we can bring you many more stories like this, so if you have any good adventure stories to share please let us know!