An email dropped into my inbox last week from the police. In connection with the bike that was stolen earlier this year, it was asking me to complete a victim impact statement – the person who stole the bike has been in custody for some months now and the legal process is slowly grinding towards a trial. Despite that they have CCTV footage of the thieving bastard riding off into the sunrise on my bike he still intends to plead not guilty.
My first thought was to reply saying I don’t feel I can complete this. The email arrived on the day the Christchurch terrorist was sentenced, after a week of those that were affected reading their victim impact statements. How on earth could I say I was a victim compared to those bravely standing in a Christchurch court facing the man who tried to kill them? How could my experience, the loss of a possession, compare to that of those who lost their lives, those who lost loved ones? How can I cry Victim! compared to someone who has lost their livelihood because of injuries that will impact them for the rest of their lives?
On the other hand, I don’t want this person to think that I wasn’t affected by his anti-social actions. I was raised to believe that if something wasn’t yours you didn’t take it, or use it without the owner’s permission; and if you found something you tried your best to return it to the rightful owner, or handed it to the police. I abhor those who think they are entitled to take something that belongs to someone else. The police described the thief as a young man who ‘hasn’t had the best start in life’. I felt sympathy for him, but it was juxtaposed with anger – how dare he take what is not his. There are many with similar backgrounds who don’t go around breaking the law.
I stress here I wasn’t careless. The bike was stolen from a locked car park, and it was chained to a concrete post that supported the apartments above. Dressed for a ride, I stood in stunned silence as I looked at the space where it should have been, desperately trying to believe I was seeing things, that it really was there. Maybe I’d left it somewhere else? As Neil rang the car park owner I fought back tears. This was the second bike theft in six months; the first was in England of a bike that I would have sold anyway in a few weeks, and I didn’t feel its loss that keenly, although I was pissed off about it. But this bike I had no intention of selling. This was a bike I had owned for four years, looked after carefully (with the exception of dropping it a few times, generally with my body coming off worse than the bike), and had serviced regularly. As I was taught not to take others’ belongings, I was taught to look after my own, and I do. Aside from a few scratches it was in excellent condition and I would have ridden it for years. It’s fair to say I was devastated. It’s also fair to say I hated myself for my reaction – it was stolen on the first anniversary of the Christchurch attack and I was fully aware that it was absolutely insignificant when the country was remembering those who had lost so much. (Ironically, our plan that day had been to cycle to a local mosque for a remembrance service. It’s a strange coincidence that the theft of my bike correlates to an event far, far worse.)
Having said all this I’ve decided to complete the statement and send it back. Yes, in comparison, my loss is negligible. But I felt its loss keenly at the time, and I don’t want this toerag to think his actions have had no effect. He stole my bike a week before the country went into full lockdown. I had neither the time nor the funds to replace it and I therefore went through lockdown with seriously restricted exercise options, which did my mental health no good at all. The bike was insured, but the amount I received was less than a quarter of what I had to pay to replace it, and a lot less than I would have received if I’d sold it, so I took a large financial hit.
I’m not a confident cyclist and it takes me a long time to get used to a new bike (one of the reasons I bought one last year when we travelled). Designs have changed (don’t get me started on change…) and the replacement, although theoretically identical, is not. The ‘trend’ now is for larger wheels and these things are bloody huge – I’ve seen smaller wheels on a tractor! The gears are different and there’s no little thing on the handlebars to tell me which gear I’m in, something that was on the very first bike I had over forty years ago. Is this progress? Apparently cyclists can tell where they are on the gear ratio by how hard they have to pedal in any given circumstance. Well, in any given circumstance I have to pedal hard and it matters not which gear I am in so can I have that little thing back, please? The handlebars were so wide (again, a trend…) that I couldn’t even get it through the hall of our apartment, and the brakes are shit-hot. I foresee one day me landing in a heap after I’ve had to brake quickly and catapulted myself over those wide handlebars (which I’ve had shortened but they still feel weird). Basically, it feels different.
One of the benefits of city living is being able to leave the car snuggled happily in its parking bay and use my eco-friendly bike to cycle somewhere, but I’m now nervous about where I leave it. Whereas before I would have happily ridden somewhere and locked my bike whilst I shopped/walked/had coffee, I now wonder if I’ll end up stranded somewhere because some scumbag has cut through the cable and left me with no transport.
I know I can’t compare my experience as a victim to that of many who have been affected by more serious crime, but no crime is victimless, and this thieving toerag needs to know that. So I’ll be completing my victim impact statement. Don’t think too badly of me.
(In another ironic twist, the bike was recovered just after lockdown, about three days after I’d replaced it. The insurance company aren’t interested in it. I can’t let a perfectly good bike go to waste so I’m trying to get the police to give it to a charity but, as with many things like this, it’s all about the red tape…)