They call him "Bike Batman" around Seattle, and Outside magazine profiles this ordinary citizen who has turned into a superhero of sorts for his skill at reuniting people with their stolen bikes. It generally goes like this: The anonymous do-gooder scans Craigslist and the like for deals on bikes that seem a little too good to be true, then checks the specs against something like the Bike Index registry. When he spots an obviously stolen bike, he then sets up a meeting to buy it. In the early days of his bike vigilantism, back in 2014, he would typically show up alone, without a plan, and simply inform the seller the bike was stolen and threaten to call the cops. It generally worked. These days, he's more likely to arrange the meeting with police, who swoop in for an arrest when he makes a confirmation signal.
It's obviously dangerous, and one detective interviewed says no non-cop should be taking the "huge risks" involved. Bike Batman's wife agrees, and while he's willing to use safer methods, he's not willing to give up this weird thing he just happens to be great at. He got back 24 bikes in his first year. “It felt so good, just so good to get people reconnected with this thing that they’ve got all this emotional attachment to,” he says. “And most of these guys don’t have renter’s insurance, or they don’t have an insurance policy on their bike for whatever reason. They’re out $2,000, $3,000 when this thing gets stolen.” Click for the full story, which runs through why bike thefts are booming not just in Seattle but around the country. (Read more Longform stories.)