Which theory of Berlin’s abandoned bike locks do you support? The Radio Spaetkauf team explore the scenarios.
Listen to the full version of the podcast here.
Which landmark abandoned locations are going to be renovated – and do we want them to be? Several huge Berlin ruins are about to be developed, while Spreepark Planterwald is set to re-open this summer. Will anyone want to go to a formerly abandoned fully operating theme park?
We try and solve a few mysteries. Why are some Berlin streets numbered strangely, and why are there so many lonely bike locks hanging from posts around the city?
Our sports reporter Daniel Stern went out to cover a match of the Berlin Bats, the local floorball team. What’s floorball? Listen to find out.
We’ve got a guest, local journalist Konrad Werner, who joins us to talk politics and the upcoming city election. Check out his own podcast, News des Nachrichtens: soundcloud.com/newsdesnachrichtens/
Have you ever walked down the street and noticed a locked bike chain hanging from a post? What happened to the bike? How did the bike disappear? I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this lately, and I’ve come up with six possible theories and corresponding likelihoods:
1. Someone Cut Through the Bike
This is the first theory most people instinctively respond with. But when you think about it, it seems quite unlikely. This means that someone sawed or cut through the structure of the bicycle, thereby damaging the bike, potentially beyond repair. Theoretically you could solder a bike back together, but that seems like a lot of work for a common bike thief. And surely anyone who has the equipment to do all of this work would have a tool capable of simply cutting the lock instead, which would save all the trouble. So I’m going to rank the likelihood of this option as a “maybe.”
2. Someone Cut Through the Wheel
It’s a lot easier to replace a wheel than to cut through and re-solder a bike frame, so maybe this makes more sense. But this theory has a few flaws. First, it is quite unlikely that anyone would cut through the tube and rim of the wheel. That seems like a lot of work, and wouldn’t it cause a loud pop? They could of course cut through the spokes, that’s very easy. But both cases assume that the bike owner was stupid enough to lock their bike only to the wheel, or even stupider, only through the spokes. And again, if anyone can cut metal, they can simply cut the lock. This theory is ranked “unlikely.”
3. The Polite Lockpicker
Perhaps someone came along, jimmied open the lock somehow, and took the bike. But since the lock is still there, this implies that they also closed the lock again. What kind of bike thief would do such a thing? Wouldn’t they also take the lock, which is worth some money? Or just leave it unlocked on the ground – why do extra work? This theory only holds if you think the thief was polite enough to leave the lock for the owner to find upon their return, so the owner could presumably take the lock home with them to use again.
I rank the polite lockpicker theory as “unlikely.”
4. The Organized Cyclist’s Distributed Lock System
I’m going to credit Mr. Joshua Alas of Mobile Kino, for coming up with this creative theory. Bike locks and chains can be heavy and annoying to carry around, especially if you have one of those fancy racing bikes. Maybe there are cyclists out there who prefer to ride unhindered by the weight of a chain. And to avoid this, they distribute locks around the city at locations they frequent. So they might have a lock near their house, one near their workplace, one near their favourite bar and so on. An added bonus is that this also reserves a bike parking place at a prime location. We all know how in summer it can sometimes be hard to find a post to chain your bike to.
This theory fits with what we know about how organized Germans can be, and also about how fastidious those racing bike owners are. Anyone willing to wear shoes with clips and funny pants could be the type to establish their own network of locks around the city.
But let’s pick this theory apart. To start with, fancy bike riders rarely leave their bikes on the street at all. They usually carry them upstairs into their apartment or office. Next, if you leave a lock out, it’s going to rust and become unusable, so you would have to be constantly replacing rusty locks. You can’t have locks everywhere, so you couldn’t just stop at some random shop on your way home if you wanted. There are so many lonely locks on the streets of Berlin, so if this theory is true it means there are huge numbers of people using this distributed lock system, so you would think you would have met someone who does this, or have seen someone taking their bike but leaving their lock.
For these reasons, this theory is ranked as “highly unlikely.”
5. The Intentionally Abandoned Lock
Perhaps someone just gave up on their lock. Either it got old and they didn’t want it anymore, so they just left it out on the street, along with their old mattress, TV and fridge. Or it could be some kind of art project. Or a statement, code for underworld activity we’re not aware of, in the same way that shoes hanging from a cable indicate the proximity of a crack dealer. Maybe it’s a symbol of marriage, like those engraved locks people leave on bridges. Or maybe, it’s the nihilistic act of a saddened bike owner who, upon returning to find their bike stolen, couldn’t even be bothered to use the key in their pocket to unlock the chain and take it home. Why would you, if the lock had proven so ineffective?
Berlin is full of art projects, but if this is one it doesn’t have much artistic merit. It would also be expensive acquiring all those locks, and I haven’t seen a Facebook post by any artists requesting donations of old bike locks for their extremely subtle city-wide installation.
I think Germans are too civic minded to litter their cities with old bike chains. I don’t see any engraved notices of affection, and believe me I’ve studied quite a few of these abandoned locks in the past few weeks. The nihilistic thievery victim is a tragic poetic image, but there’s too many chains out there, and I think Germans are pragmatic enough to take the lock. So that leaves the underworld signal, which I can’t disprove but does seem to be a stretch of the imagination. As are all of these scenarios, so I rate the intentionally abandoned lock theory as “unlikely.”
There’s just one theory left to discuss. This one, unlike all the others, involves no malicious activity, no scheming, no planning. Security experts often say that the weakest link in any system is the human. Which is how I came up with the last theory:
6. The Stoner
Some blissed-out Berliner was trundling along, floating on a cloud of euphoria as they rode into the sunset toward or away from some party. And when they arrived at their destination, still grinning irrationally, they looped their bike chain around their bicycle in such a fashion that it appeared to their livid red eyes to be secured. But in fact, they failed to loop the chain through any enclosed section of their bike frame. Perhaps they just wrapped it around their seat post, or they locked it to the bar but forgot to include their bike. And off they strolled, without looking back, feeling proud of themselves that they’d managed to arrive without getting into an accident for which they have no spare cash to pay for.
Then, some opportunist walking saw a bike resting against a post with a chain draped around it or near it for decoration, and simply took it as you might pick up money on the street.
That means that every time you see a lonely lock, you know a stoner is or has been nearby. So the number of lonely locks in any given area can be considered an indication of the number of stoners. You could imagine a social mapping project where they get volunteers to geolocate lonely locks to create a infographic.
How to rate this theory? Given the propensity of Berliners to enjoy a smoke, or a drink, or a pill, I’m going to rank The Stoner theory of the Lonely Bike Lock Phenomenon as “highly likely.”
If you’ve got a theory that I haven’t thought of, please contribute to this important research project. Or even better, if you’re a victim or perpetrator of a lonely lock situation, we want to hear your personal story. Contact us by emailing to email@example.com, or posting on our social media walls.
By Joel Dullroy
Written for the April 24 episode of Radio Spaetkauf. Listen here:
This weekend is Easter, which means it is illegal to watch over 700 films banned by the German ratings authority. It includes obvious anti-religious films such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian, but also strange entries such as Mary Poppins. Dan Stern reads through the list to pick out some gems.
The refugee influx has created opportunities for some businesses to make a lot of money. The consulting firm McKinsey found itself in hot water this month for obtaining a big contract from the city of Berlin by employing a former SPD party official. McKinsey quit after the scandal emerged, but mayor Michael Müller has been damaged by the incident.
Special guest Elizabeth Rushe joins us to talk about her interview with a young Syrian athlete and refugee in Berlin who, despite her harrowing ordeal, is still training to swim at the Olympics. Read her full story here: http://bit.ly/1Uvebec
Special guest Craig Schuftan talks about the Culture Club Kino, a new event series in Berlin mashing together a lecture, video and audio to explain the fascinating connections in pop culture. Culture Club Kino takes place on Thurs March 24, 8pm, in the Oval Room at Babylon. Tickets here: http://bit.ly/1LzAE7a
This episode is supported by Clare, which offers third-party liability insurance in English. This insurance protects you in case you damage someone else’s property or person, and it doesn’t cost much. Better still, all of Clare’s information is in English, so you understand what’s going on. Visit http://www.clare.de to find out more.
Why isn’t the airport finished yet? Is the May 1 “festival” happening this year? How are BVG ticket controllers scamming passengers? Radio Spaetkauf can tell you. Come along to our next live recording, this Sunday at Comedy Cafe Berlin!
Sunday March 20
Doors: 17.30. Show starts: 18:00
Comedy Cafe Berlin
Roseggerstr. 17, 12059 Berlin
Tensions have flared between the police and punks in Friedrichshain, with massive raids on squats and retaliatory car burnings. Our guest John Riceberg explains what’s going on.
A huge music festival will take place at Treptower Park, having moved there after Tempelhof was turned into a refugee shelter. Now there’s a petition against the festival on account of the grass. Can’t the kids enjoy music anywhere?
Should Radio Spaetkauf talk about terror warnings in Berlin? The team has an editorial meeting about whether to discuss the recent alleged threats to Berlin landmarks. Do the warnings help anyone, or just make us all impotently fearful?
Radio Spaetkauf is presented by Joel Dullroy, Daniel Stern and Jöran Mandik, with support from Victoria Linchong and Jocelyn Barre.
How fancy is your flat? There’s a checklist you can use to fight against rental increases. If your building has a communal party room and video intercom, your rent might go up. But if you don’t have a proper shower or bike racks, you can argue for a rent reduction.
We pay tribute to David Bowie, the ultimate Berlin international temporary resident, who wrote three albums while living here from 1976 to 1978. In “Heroes” he sung the prophetic lyric “I remember standing by the wall… and we kissed as though nothing would fall.” He also wrote a few klangers, like the incorrectly spelt “Neukoln”. Bowie did Berlin before all of us, and better than any of us.us, and better than all of us. We dance in his shadow.
Tempelhof referendum revisited: The city government is trying to re-write the citizen-initiated law preventing development on Tempelhofer Feld, in order to build refugee accommodation. Critics say the law is losely worded and would allow luxury flat development – the very thing the referendum was against.
Council buys back houses: A Berlin city council has found a new tactic to stop house price increases. The Green controlled Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg council used its first-refusal right to prevent a speculative investor from buying an entire building in Wrangelstraße. Instead, the house will be bought by the city-owned housing company Gewobag, together with a non-profit foundation. This will allow the tenants to keep paying cheap rents.
Thanks to our supporters Mobile Kino, Berlin’s traveling cinema. They’re presenting a Quentin Tarantino retrospective from January 15 to 30. Check out their website for more details: www.mobilekino.de
Recorded live at Donau115 on Monday January 11. Presenters: Joel Dullroy, Jöran Mandik and Daniel Stern. Filmed by Victoria Linchong.