CRIME

Seattle's Vigilante 'Bike Batman' Confronts Thieves, Gets Stolen Bicycles Back

"The only reason I do this is because it's the right thing to do."

In a city of bike lovers, Bike Batman may just be the hero they need.

The Seattle engineer spends his free time online, matching reports of stolen bikes listed on Bike Index to bikes for sale on Craigslist and other websites. Then, pretending he wants to buy the bike, he arranges to meet the thief. 

"You’ve got two options," he tells the thief, according to The Guardian. "You can wait until a cop gets here, or you can just beat it."

So far, Bike Batman has managed to return 22 bikes to their rightful owners, including this happy cyclist: 

Doug Brick never even saw his bike rescuer's face, which is how Bike Batman wanted it; the modest local hero even asked for anonymity in his interview with The Guardian.  

“The impression I got from him, and stuff his wife said, (is) he’s kind of an adrenaline junkie," Sierra Bronson, another beneficiary of the Bike Batman, told the Seattle Times. "It’s his way of giving back to the community."

Bike Batman said he has taken steps to protect his safety, often calling the police and asking officers to accompany him. Police have even made arrests after half of his sting operations, The Guardian reported.

Bryan Hance, who operates the Bike Index, told Seattle's KIRO-TV that there are a number of people who scour online ads looking for bikes, then alert authorities when they find one that seems like it might have been stolen. 

"The thing about the Seattle Batman guy -- he's one of the few guys who take it to the next level and meets up with the (thieves) and gets the bike back," Hance said. 

Seattle is consistently ranked among the top cities in the nation for cyclists, with a Bicycling Master Plan that calls for 450 miles of bike lanes by next year. But with so many bicyclists, there are also more opportunities for bicycle thieves.  More than 1,561 bicycles were stolen in 2015 -- and 41 bikes were stolen in just the first month of this year.

That means Bike Batman could be busy. 

Despite his success and growing popularity as a cult figure, Bike Batman told the CBC he's not fond of the heroic nickname. 

"It implies I'm out punching bad guys," he said. "In reality, doing this is really boring. There's a lot of waiting and a lot of text messaging."

The Canadian network reported that the Bike Batman's wife asked him to stop risking his safety, but he plans to keep fighting the good fight. 

"The only reason I do this is because it's the right thing to do," he told the CBC. "It felt really good for me to see these people reunited with their stuff." 

To increase the odds of being reunited with your own stuff should it be stolen, Hance suggested that cyclists take a photo of their bike, note anything that makes it unique and register it with Bike Index, which is free for individuals and bike shops.

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