I found the remains of my bicycle on the carport wall. They were broken and twisted, like the body of a victim left to rot in a cheesy serial killer movie.
The police officer told me it was strange. So strange that his partner took photos and dusted for prints.
Someone had taken the seat, the forks and the stem bars — the only things not secured to the building by my D-lock and chain.
I couldn't make sense of the robbery. While sturdy, my bicycle was seven years old, and had seen better days. It wasn't worth much money. Who would buy worn leather and a few scratched bits of metal on eBay? Or risk being caught for second hand parts?
The camera clicked and flashed, but the officer had no easy answers. He kindly suggested I keep bicycles inside our flat from now on. I was so angry I barely heard him.
When I talked with work mates and friends living in the city and its suburbs, I learned similar stories of frustration after having their bicycles ripped off from home. Locked backyard gates seemed to fail as a deterrent. Garages were much the same. It didn't seem to matter how well some bicycles were secured, a clever robber always found a way to make off with pedal powered loot.
I felt the sting of bicycle theft mostly because I enjoyed the many benefits of cycling. My set of wheels took me home safely on so many cold and rainy winter nights, let me zigzag smoothly across wide and empty roads in the early morning sunshine, and got me to work on time when the trains were stuck and the traffic jammed.
I got to see parts of the city that go unnoticed when one is locked into the transport grid by car, bus or train. Bicycles create transport flexibility, reduce vehicle emissions and fuel consumption, improve our health, and help save money.
"I carried those heavy metal limbs up the stairs of the apartment block, and sat them in a pile on the floor of my study. I felt like I'd laid a best friend to rest."
I was in between jobs when my bicycle was stripped of its parts. I'm am not a great at fixing mechanical things, so I did not have the money or means for repairs. Instead, I carried those heavy metal limbs up the stairs of the apartment block, and sat them in a pile on the floor of my study. I felt like I'd laid a best friend to rest. I'm way too attached to an inanimate object, I told myself. I counted my blessings, but afterwards I couldn't shake off feeling hollowed out and sullen.
David Byrne, in his book The Bicycle Diaries, writes that riding a bicycle is like 'navigating the collective neural pathways of some vast global mind ... One can sense the collective brain — happy, cruel, deceitful, and generous — at work and at play.' I understand what he means. My daily bicycle rides took me closer to some of the people and streets of the city. With that came an emotional connection I did not expect: relief when a driver paused before swinging open his car door on a bicycle lane, sadness as I passed an ambulance officer pumping the chest of a pedestrian lying stiff on the ground at a packed tram stop, or joy while stopped for a break during the ride home on a warm and starry summer night.
Months later, with my new bicycle hanging from a rack in the study, I borrowed mum's car, packed the old bicycle parts into its boot, and drove across town to CERES Community Environment Park in Melbourne's inner north. There, at the park's bike shed, I carefully placed the wheels and frame on a massive pile of multi-coloured handlebars, forks and other parts. I turned to leave, eyes wet, embarrassed, but a young bloke stopped me. 'That's a good wheel,' he said, reaching down with a long arm to feel the rim. 'Can I have it?"
He told me he was building a bicycle for his girlfriend. As he talked about pedals and seats and gears, I could tell how much he enjoyed the fickle game of finding parts and recycling them, of turning them into something new again, something that he thought she would enjoy. I imagined this bicycle rider on her custom-made set of wheels. In my mind, she rolled down a long curving road in the sun, grinning, her clothes flapping, legs pumping, mind exhilarated.
Later, I went home, and forgot about the police report, wheel locks, bicycle cages and the fine print details of my new bicycle insurance. I slept soundly that night. I had released myself from worry, and not by feeling more secure, but after the simple act of giving, and of letting something go.
Ben O'Mara is a health worker with a social science background.
Bicycle image: Shutterstock