18 March 2020

Hafiz Adewuyi

Kennedy's bicycle was stolen from his yard in the Šančiai district of Kaunas

As part of my ramping up to get out of bed routine every morning, I check WhatsApp. A bad habit I know. But I think it helps to keep me from snoozing my alarm for another cycle. This morning, one of the first messages I saw was from a group that I and Kennedy, a fellow Digital Explorer are in. My heart might have skipped a beat the moment I absorbed his message.

This is where my own bicycle sleeps in Kaunas; by the entrance to my apartment building
Instantly, the picture that you see above appeared in my mind. That's my bicycle, and every day, I park it outside, close to the entrance of the apartment block where I live, close to the city centre of Kaunas. It is secured only with the bike-lock which came along with the bicycle when it was handed as a gift to me by my colleague and buddy, Mindaugas in late 2019.

L - R, then background: Mindaugas, Hafiz; their colleagues

I was overwhelmed by a sudden but fleeting fear that a band of bicycle thieves had swept through town last night and that like Kennedy's, my bike must have also fallen victim. I felt the urge to quickly go check that my bicycle was still in place in front of the apartment but my laziness made sure that instead of doing that, I opted for the option to ask Kennedy if his bicycle had been chained down when he had it stolen. It surely wasn't worth the 0.5 calories it would cost me to go down one flight of stairs from my flat to go check that I still had a bicycle before I confirmed whether or not Kennedy's fate had been due to his lack of basic care in making sure his bicycle is not easy picking.

I felt some relief a couple of hours later when I read a WhatsApp reply from Kennedy that indeed, his bicycle was not chained up when he left it outside last night. Indeed, his bicycle was easy picking and that is the primary reason why it was stolen. "Yay, I have no new thing to worry about", my subconscious declared with the victory of knowing that no new vaccination needed to be invented today!

I am fundraising to get Kennedy a new bike as summer is on the way and he will surely need it for all the exploring that is ahead of him. Click here to support this brotherly cause

The story of the theft of Kennedy's bicycle is one that is particularly important for me because, for me, it's an important source of information to update my belief about my environment. "I feel really safe"; that was one of the first things I said when asked about my first impressions of Kaunas two months after my arrival in the city, in an interview with the media arm of the Kaunas city municipality. Even though I'm not the one whose bicycle was stolen this time, for me, this single incidence will make it less likely that I'll repeat that statement again if asked how I feel about living in Kaunas.

Of course, I still feel safe. Just a tad bit less safe than I felt that four months ago when I granted an interview to KaunasIN. My apartment is in a building right by one of the larger and busier streets in Kaunas, yet it's got nothing of the semblance of a fence. To enter the building (of which once you're in, all you need to get into my safe space is give a nice sturdy flying-kick to my wooden door), all you need do is open a transparent glass door with metal frames. There's an electronic keypad lock by the door which is meant to keep the door locked, but it stopped working several months ago and entrance to the building is now free for all. I guess the main reason that I haven't complained about this security vulnerability is the same thing, I still feel safe (partly due to the fact that I actually desperately want to feel safe here).

I feel safe. But I think that this would be less surprising to you after I tell you that since I came to Kaunas, I've not seen a burglary proof on any window in a residential or business building. Yes. In case that electronic lock starts working, don't fret much - if you've got your eyes on my goods. All you'd need-do is scale the "pseudo-balcony" behind my bedroom windows and again, give what?... You guessed it, ... a sturdy flying-kick to those metal-framed glass windows and in you are, into my bedroom. My goods are yours for the taking.

Because I'm opportunistic about sharing details from my life, I think that now is a perfect time to talk about the fact that I actually have an experiment that has been running since shortly after I got my own bicycle from Mindaugas. This experiment is designed to help calibrate my safety-meter for Kaunas. Here's how it goes:


The lights look just like this. (Source: Amazon.com)
I bought a pair of flashing bicycle lights for my bicycle: a white one that goes in-front and a red one placed at the back, along the rod holding up the seat. Each of these lights is peculiar in that it is attached to the bicycle by a clip-on which is designed into the body of the light. This means that it's very easy for any passerby to detach any of these lights and walk away with it.

The pair of lights cost me around 5 or 6 Euros but I thought that a small enough token to sacrifice for the sake of true knowledge. I really value true knowledge because growing up has taught me that everyone sees things through different lenses and that taking advice from people at face value about any subject matter at all without any allowance for yourself to test the claims safely can be quite, limiting.

So, apart from the first couple of days after I bought these lights and affixed them to my bicycle, I never detach them from the bicycle when I park it in-front-of my apartment building. Even when I ride the bicycle out and have to park it in a public place that has much more human traffic than the front of my apartment, I only detach the lights in the rare situation that I feel like the parking area has a heavy footfall and increases the chances that I will lose my bicycle lights.

Again, this experiment is so important for me because every morning that I come out of the apartment exit and find that the bicycle lights survived the perilous night is a morning that my preferred (and naive) belief that my environment in Kaunas is safe, loses some of its fictitiousness.
The results of my detachable bicycle-light experiment (so far) are astonishing! (at least for me). After over four months of leaving my bicycle in several public places in Kaunas (chained-down, of course), with two flashy detachable lights, actually, one of the lights has been stolen: the red one in the rear of the bicycle. If my memory and observation serve me right, this theft was performed right at the spot where I park my bicycle at home: under the porch that holds the door which I use to access my apartment building entrance.

I still feel safe though, as I've been waiting ever since then for the other half of the light pair to be stolen as well, so I can just get another pair and once again, become a fully-compliant night bicycle rider in the Republic of Lithuania. When I do that, you can be sure that I'll be apt to detach these lights every time I'm leaving my bicycle outside for an extended period of time.

Back to Kennedy's bicycle, I feel really sorry for him. If I were in his shoes, I know how much new suffering it would mean for me to start doing small errands on my feet again; and I don't say that lightly. As far as I know, he might consider reporting the theft to the local police and is seeking some advice from some locals on how to approach the situation. Can't wait to see how that unfolds and I really hope that somehow, he gets the bicycle back. Cos' I know how important of a possession it was to him. Kennedy is in love with the outdoors.

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