THE DAY I STOLE A BICYCLE
It was my first brand new bike. Nothing fancy - the cheapest Ridgeback on the market - but I was really proud of it and I loved it.
Two months later, on a sunny Saturday afternoon I locked it up on Whitechapel High Street in London. There were lots of people about. I felt sure it would be fine, but two hours later, it was gone. The lock was lying on the pavement. It had been cut straight through with a pair of bolt cutters. I was gutted.
I felt sure it would turn up at Brick Lane Market the next day and tried to arrange to meet the police there so that we could look for it together and reclaim it, but they told me that they couldn't go along with me. They were very sympathetic and said that if I was to find my bike I should ring 999 and they'd be straight over. I didn't want to argue but I couldn't see how that was going to help. The market would be crowded and my bike would be long gone in the time it took them to reach me.
I got to the market early. At the far end of the street a particularly scarylooking man was directing two others who were unloading bikes from a white van. He had his back to me and he was shaven headed and absolutely huge. I knew if my bike came out the back of that van I'd be going home to save up for another one without saying a word, but I watched anyway. I was almost glad that my silver Ridgeback didn't appear, though lots of other bikes did. There were other vans but my bike didn't come out of those either.
By ten o'clock I'd been at the market for over two hours and it was getting crowded. The white vans had stopped coming but bikes were still arriving ridden by teenagers. This is where I saw my bike - my pristine, two-month-old silver ladies' Ridgeback - except now it had a buckled front wheel and it was missing a seat post. I couldn't tell how old the boy holding it was but I was relieved that he was smaller than me. I was scared but angry enough to go ahead and speak to him. I asked him how much he wanted. He said £90. I told him that it was my bike and he could either give it to me or he could wait for the police to arrive and I would show them my receipt. He gave it to me, turned around and walked away.
I took a deep breath and started to wheel my unrideable bike through what were now thick crowds between the stalls. When I had confronted the boy I had noticed a man watching us from the other side of the narrow street. The boy had walked off in his direction. As I looked over my shoulder, I could see this man was now behind me in the crowds. I kept walking but every time I looked over my shoulder the man was still there. We both knew that he was going to catch up with me as soon as I crossed the road. I couldn't see that there was anything else for me to do. I got on the bike and rode it, with its wobbly seat and no seat post - but I didn't care. I just needed to get away from this man who I believed was intent on doing me harm. I made eye contact with the man chasing me once more as I clanked away down the street. He had stopped following me. He took one good sour look at my face and turned around to walk back into the market. I made it home in one piece and, after a deep breath and a cup of tea, flipped my bike over to remove the buckled front wheel. Here comes the shameful part. This is when I checked the serial number against my receipt and realised that this wasn't my bike after all. It was the same make and colour but it wasn't mine. I kept it anyway.
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What made it easier for the thieves to steal the writer's bike?
- They knew it had been left unlocked.
- They knew no one would see them.
- They had a special tool.
- They had plenty of time.
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