In Berkeley, Calif., people had the right idea about bicycle locks - they ignored them. Berkeley being the belligarently political place it is, the diehard bikers simply never let go of their shoulders any place it was physically impossible to ride.
You heard wheel clicking down the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of the chemistry lecture hall. It was not unusual to see a biker in the supermarket idly contemplating the canned vegetables with a Fuji behind aim blocking half the aisle.
It's not so easy in Washington. There are a great many buildings here, including The Washington Post's, that will not allow bikes inside, and of those a dismaying number have no outside racks, either. Metro will offer 100 heavy rent-by-the-month lockers for commuters, but only becuase a persistent and singleminded woman earned Eileen Kadesh, who is the Distirict's bicycle coordinator, has been ranting about lockers for most of 1977.
Unless you are prepared to cling to your bike at all times (Hans Roland, who works at Big Wheel Bikes and never abandons his, once rode through the lobby of National Airport rather than lock up), you have to carry a lock and hope for the best. There are basically two grades of bike locks, if you discount those flimsy things that look like a choke chain for a poodle, and you sacrifice a little no matter which one you use.
Heavy chains and galvanized steel cables are the cheapest and most flexible locks, running from $6 to $10 in most shops. They will lock both wheels and the frame to just about anything, and a steel cable is usually reasonably light. The problem is that a pair of bolt cutters can go through these things in 30 seconds. In fact I once visited a bike store that sold its heavy chain by the yard; you specified the length and the clerk unwound some chain from a big spool and casually lopped it off for you.
If you use a chain or cable, keep it off the ground when you're locking up. This foils robbers with axes - an alarming thought, but they exist - and a thief using bolt cutters has far more chopping leverage if he cn rest one arm of his cutters on the ground.
Much safer all around are the Kryptonite and Citadel locks, each consisting of a U-shaped hunk of metal that closes with a bar at one end. The Kryptonite seems to be more popular among both dealers and bikers; it is cheaper, at $18 to $22, and some dealers think it sturdier. The Citadel runs about $30.
It takes fairly serious tools and about a half hour's uninterrupted work to get into either of these locks, which means they're trustworthy as long as they're used in public view. The problem with both, besides the expense, is that they're heavy and have no flexibility at all. First you have to find a pole thin enough to fit them.Then to be safe you've got to take your front wheel off and lock it to the pole too, or carry a separate cable for the wheel, or simply take your front wheel away with you, which some people think ollks funny.
Once you're properly outfitted (a well-trained Doberman Pinscher on a leash might help, too), you have to find a parking place, which in downtown Washington can be a problem. Studies are currently under way to determine the number of federal agencies that allow bicycle parking and to explore the possiblility of offering parking in local garages.
It also has been suggested that the District government make bicycle parking a requirement in any new building it leases. Someone here might follow the example of an enterprising fellow up in New York who has opened a midtown Manhattan bicycle parking garage that provides parking and shelter for 50 cents a day.
If your building has no bike rack at all, agitate. Ask why. Make a scene. And do not lock your bike in L'Enfant Plaza to anything but the rack inside the garage or the security guards will cut your chain before the robbers can. They do this, according to L 'Enfant Plaza officials, because illegal bike parkers were locking up to trees and damaging the bark.
One last depressing not: Remember to take with you anything you valur that can't be locked, including your pump. This may sound like paranoia. Listen: My favorite old 10-speed was stolen by somebody with bolt cutters who went through the cable in a matter of minutes.
I once sat through a class on locking your bicycle properly and when we came out one of the students discovered the front wheel of his bike gone. And last fall I locked my new bicycle to a pole with my new Kryptonite lock, removing the front wheel so I could lock it too, and somebody stole the tool kit out of my saddle bag.