‘Is this your bike?' Cyclist uses unusual method to find stolen bike's owner

SEATTLE — As a dedicated cyclist, when Scott Gamble was approached by a man carrying bolt cutters while pushing a bike in a Fremont parking lot, he faced a dilemma.

"The guy came over to me, he relayed to me he's got this bicycle, and it's not his bicycle," Gamble said. "He also had a pair of bolt cutters and he was looking to get rid of the bike, and I'm, like, hmmmm."

Gamble said bike theft has been trending dramatically in Seattle recently, and the buzz in the bike community is the sight of bold thieves rolling stolen bikes to chop shops in homeless encampments before selling reassembled bikes on the streets.

"I've had people try to steal my bike twice in one day," he said. After the second attempt, he said thieves tried to disassemble his bike from the cable and U-locks. He said the group stared at him from across the street, and they too were carrying bolt cutters.

"It was chilling," he said.

Fast-forward to Gamble's dilemma. He was staring at a steel, late 1980's-era Trek 620, which looked like it was tuned and cared for. It was in the hands of a man Gamble described as a "crackhead." He felt empathy for the bike's owner. He figured it was low priority for police, so he offered the stranger $20.

"I thought, let’s see if I can get it back in the hand of the proper owner," he said. "I took a picture of it and posted it on Craigslist from my phone."

The post sparked a big response on social media, and the attention of SPD, but not a single word from the bike's owner.

Gamble suggested it would be helpful if SPD offered bike owners to register serial numbers into an online databank. He does not believe bike owners should be required to register, or be licensed, as some have suggested – but he does believe a voluntary registration would make it easier for police to trace stolen bikes.

Right now, SPD uses the private website bikeindex.com, where more than 66,000 bike owners register bikes, and recover nearly 3,000 stolen bikes.

"Drug addiction and homelessness and hunger and mental illness are driving people to desperate measures, so bicycles are low hanging fruit," he said, "if it wasn't bicycles, it could be muggings or car break-ins, right?"

While Gamble and the rest of the bike community struggles to come up with solutions, he says in the meantime, he wants the stolen bike to go back home.

"I'm happy to drop it off free of charge," he said. "I don't want a darn thing for it, I just want to get it back in the right hands, and I hope someone would do the same for me.''

If you recognize the bike, you can contact Gamble through his Craigslist ad: