Filmmaker documents NYC bicycle theft problem

Casey Neistat steals his own bike on film with hopes of a reaction

Documentarian, and HBO filmmaker, Casey Neistat broaches the subject of bike theft in a recent short film shot in New York City. In the film, he steals his own bike multiple times with the hopes of a reaction, and in most instances there is none.


Neistat, who previously offered his own tongue-in-cheek look at what happens in the Big Apple when you don’t ride your bike in a designated bike lane, decided to tackle the issue of bicycle theft head-on. For the film he steals his bicycle in broad daylight, in various situations.

The New York Times reported that 60,000 bicycles are stolen each year and just two-percent are recovered.

Despite the bike actually being his own, he proceeded as if he were a thief, going so far as to use a crowbar, and battery powered reciprocating saw — and he didn’t just try this in dark alleys or in a secluded park, rather Neistat actually tried this in front of a police precinct. He used a variety of tools, and to see if the background of the color mattered, even had a black friend step in as the would-be thief. This wasn’t the first time he used ‘bike theft’ as a film subject, he first broached the subject in 2005, and his latest follows up — for better or worse.

Only when using a power tool by a subway entrance, and after nearly 10 minutes, did the police respond to what appeared to be an attempted theft. Even after this experiment, Neistat isn’t sure whether this brings attention to the plight of those who have had their bikes stolen, or if it will simply give the thieves piece of mind.

Cable locks are little match for nyc’s mean streets: cable locks are little match for nyc’s mean streets
Matt Hurst/Creative Commons

Cable locks are little match for NYC’s mean streets

As whether it “make a difference, I don’t know,” he told BikeRadar. “I don’t think cyclists are better or worse off because of the movies I’ve made. The films have started a dialogue though.”

Neistat said his hope is to increase awareness, and through this awareness improvements will happen. “But it all takes time,” he added. “It won’t be the doing of my films. Cyclists and a desire to make this city a better place for riding will make the difference, not the films.”

He agrees that the city has made great strides at becoming more bicycle friendly, yet there are still issues that need to be resolved. “I want a part in the city becoming more bike friendly,” he told BikeRadar. “There are myriad shortcomings, ones that are in every town with a cycling community, if a fun movie can bring more attention to those shortcomings then they’re a good step in a much larger process of improvement.”


For his next project he hopes to take a reality TV approach in a very real way. “I want to make a movie that shows what it’s really like to ride there,” he said. “There are a [lot] of NYC messenger, Go-Pro [filmed] videos, but I would love to see something that captures what it’s really like on a bike in New York City.”