Tyler Scholes knew he hadn't done a good job locking up his bike. He just needed a few things from the City Target near Pike Place after work. He would be in and out. But the bike was gone. Jacked. Taken off the lock. Shit.
"I tried to stop him but he ran away," a panhandler on the street said. "He was saying it was his."
"Do you know where someone would take a stolen bike?" The guy nodded. Scholes fished out a $10.
For the next five hours, the two of them ran around downtown Seattle. The two of them spent nearly all night looking for the bike, he told The Stranger. They asked passersby if anyone had seen a man running with a blue bike with one wheel. Some had. Scholes felt like he was narrowing in on the guy, he could feel that he was going to catch the thief, but still wound up bikeless.
"I was so distraught," Scholes said. "This is my baby."
Scholes's bike isn't a super fancy road bike but it’s a decent single-speed, blue. It's a distinctive blue that bike-lovers would recognize—it's a Bianchi blue.
"I was crushed and the second I looked I knew it was jacked because I did a half-assed lock-up job," Scholes said. "I felt so guilty about losing this cause I did it to myself."
Seattle is no stranger to bike theft. The highest number of stolen cycles was in 2015 when there were 1,570 reported bike thefts, according to Seattle Magazine. The Seattle Police Department stated that bike theft was down 8 percent in 2018. That number doesn't mean anything to Scholes who moved here in April of 2018 and had is bike stolen in October of 2018. He still filed a police report.
He went out the next couple of nights and continued the search on his own. He did research. "Sometimes [the stolen bikes] will stick around in the neighborhood for a bit," He said. "You might have a chance if you look for it." No dice.
He checked sites like Offerup and Craigslist; stolen bikes crop up on there a lot. That's where people move stolen bikes and there are known, repeat offenders. He wasn't seeing it on any of those sites.
The game changer was when Scholes stumbled across a community Facebook group of hobbyists. Their hobby? Finding stolen bikes. It's called, aptly, "Seattle Area Stolen Bikes." He posted about his bike on there. A few days later someone on the group notified him that he had seen his bike at Westlake Center.
The guy who had it wasn't the original thief. It was "a man with pink hair, shit wrapped around his arm, and a white shirt." Scholes went out to look for it, didn't find it, but gave some passing SPD bike cops the description of his bike and the alleged thief.
"The dude who spotted the bike first helped me hunt it down," Scholes said about the Facebook commenter. "He's a Jimmy Johns bike courier—he said he can always spot a stolen bike."
The Jimmy Johns Guy enlisted a whole legion of other Jimmy Johns Couriers as a pseudo-spy network: their task? Keep an eye out for Scholes's bike and the pink-haired thief.
"It was a friendly neighborhood kind of feeling," Scholes said, " Like 'I got you man' community looking out for each other kind of stuff."
Then, nearly a week after it was stolen, he got a call from SPD. They had his bike. They had a suspect—the guy with the pink hair.
"I go up to 3rd and Pine at the McDonalds and they’re standing there with my bike—it's all fucked up—but I rejoice. I walk up to the police and gave them the police report number," Scholes said. "The dude, the pink-haired guy was standing there looking at his shoes 'I didn’t steal your bike man,' he said. I told him 'I know you didn’t' and walked away."
He'd ripped off half the bike and the wheel pedals were messed up, but Scholes was ecstatic.
"It wouldn’t have happened without the Facebook group with the latest description of the dude," Scholes said. "[Jimmy Johns Guy], what a mensch. I got a beer with him."
Scholes wants people to know the resources they have when their bike is stolen. Go to Bike Index, go to Seattle Area Stolen Bikes, check any resale websites, and hey, maybe check out SPD's Get Your Bike Back Twitter.
"The most helpful news-you-can-use takeaway, though, is be careful when you lock up your bike," Scholes said, "me being kind of new here, I didn’t think people would be that vicious."