There are few things worst than walking out of a shop only to find the spot where you’ve left your bike empty. Picking a safe and legal place and good locks is your best defense against both bike theft and a fine.

Which Location is Best?

The best possible place to lock up is indoors, in a specifically designed bike parking zone. Barring that, you’ll want to look for a certain type of infrastructure. Your first choice should always be the most secure metal object you can find. If the place is near a door with plenty of lights, foot traffic or a security camera, all the better. Look for heavy steel bike racks that are firmly bolted or cemented into the ground. A poorly secured rack can be lifted, defeating your lock. You may lock to sign posts and other urban city infrastructure. Be sure that any post is firmly in the ground by wiggling and pulling it yourself. Make sure that your lock cannot be lifted up and off the post, as well. Look for other locked bikes. Cyclists who have ridden for a while generally know where to lock. Secure your bike where there are other bikes already parked for bike ‘herd’ protection. The best location is no good without a decent lock. Never use a cable lock without pairing it with a good U lock. Always use the U lock to secure the frame to your chosen locking structure. For added protection run a thick cable lock through both wheels, the frame and your locking structure.

Where to Not Lock

Do not lock onto trees. They may be damaged accidentally by you or your lock. Do not lock onto private property. The owner would be within their rights to remove your bike. Never lock up your bike in such a way that it interferes with any door openings. Perhaps most importantly, never lock a bike in such a way that it blocks foot traffic on a sidewalk or puts the bike in the way of automotive traffic. Your bike could be impounded and you may be fined. As long as your bike is locked in a place that is out of the way of foot traffic and not on private property you are generally well within your rights. If you are in doubt, you can ask the local business that you are visiting or a police officer. Either will be able to advice you on a good place to lock up.