The “creatives” at Liebre Amotinada, a local ad agency, had an idea. They were thinking about “the good ol’ days,” a time when people were honest and the city was safe. Wouldn’t it be nice, they thought, if you could ride your bike to the nearest panadería, leave your bike in front of the store, and go inside without having to worry about someone stealing your ride. Yeah, that would be nice. But the days when this was possible are long gone. Porteños are no longer as honest as they used to be, or at least, as honest as people now nostalgically think they used to be. So just how honest are Porteños these days? To answer this question, the ad people came up with a brilliant idea. Why not place unlocked bikes around the city and see how long it takes for people to rob them? The results are documented in a series of videos that you can see here, and here.
In the above video, filmed in a plaza at Salguero and Charcas, in downtown Buenos Aires, you can see an average-looking guy casing the plaza, trying to figure out if he can get away with stealing an unlocked bike. His actions are at once funny and pathetic. It took just 6 minutes and 20 seconds for someone to steal the bike left in this plaza. In another experiment, this time at the corner of Perón and Riobamba, it took just 3:20min for someone to steal the bike. In all of the experiments done, the bike that lasted the longest was left near the corner of Lavalle and Maipú. It lasted 60:10min. In another test, this one in Palermo near the corner of French and Salguero, the bike lasted just 8min. All in all, it sure gives the impression that the so-called “port people” are not the most trustworthy folk in the world. Check out the videos and draw you own conclusions.
Unfortunately, the Argentine government does not publish crime data, as far as I know. This makes it exceptionally difficult to track trends in the country. It also makes it impossible to verify the truth of statements about declining crime, such as one recently made by Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez. In addition, this makes it hard to compare crime here with crime in other countries, so I’m not sure how Argentina’s bike theft numbers might compare to those in other nations. More about this can be found at www.stolenbicycleregistry.com. This site has links to FBI data indicating that in 2006 some 231,238 bikes were stolen in the U.S. That number has declined for each of the past five years. In the U.K., the Home Office estimates that 480,000 bikes will be stolen this year, according to this article. Clearly, bike theft is a global problem, a human problem. Even so, this does not make it any less pathetic that bikes are stolen so quickly in Buenos Aires.
*Kudos to La Nación for running a story about this in Sunday’s paper. While the experiment has been written about quite a lot, I hadn’t heard about it before La Nación’s story, which you can see here.
**In an upcoming post (which is almost finished) I will explore in-depth the history and nature of trust and honesty in Buenos Aires.