LINCOLN PARK — Whenever 16-year-old Sophie Levinson rides her bike to North Avenue Beach, she locks it up at a friend's apartment a couple blocks away — not at one of the many bike racks by the sand.
"People can steal your wheels, they can steal anything," said Levinson, who rides along the beach at least once a week.
"People who steal bikes know that this is the place where careless people are going to come with their bikes. [They say] 'We're on the North Side, I'm OK,' but they're not."
Though Levinson hasn't had her bike or any bike parts stolen at the beach, many others have: Heavy tourist spot North Avenue Beach is the worst site for bike thefts in Chicago, according to data compiled and analyzed by DNAinfo Chicago. From 2010-2015, 90 thefts were reported at the beach in the 1600 block of North Lake Shore Drive.
It's followed by another Lincoln Park staple: the Lincoln Park Zoo. The lot in front of the zoo in the 2200 block of North Cannon Drive is the second worst site for bike thefts, with 65 during that same time period.
The data comes as no surprise to Michelle Stenzel, an avid cyclist who helps run the blog Bike Walk Lincoln Park.
"I think it's pretty obvious that it's not that Lincoln Park is a more dangerous place for bikes, but it's a reflection of the high volume of people who ride their bikes within Lincoln Park, and especially to destinations there," Stenzel said. "North Avenue Beach in the summertime is thousands of people."
Meanwhile, Drake Hernandez, 19, who has been riding along the beach almost every day during summer months for the last six years, said he locks his bike up at the beach all the time without any issues. But he said his friends have gotten their bikes stolen in Lakeview and Logan Square — neighborhoods that also made the list.
There are a total of six bike racks at the zoo — one outside the fence at every entrance, according to zoo spokeswoman Jillian Braun. But Stenzel said the racks aren't visible enough, which forces cyclists to lock up their bikes to less secure fences and the like.
"People don't even know they're there. They're rarely used or underused," Stenzel said.
Bikes locked up to a fence at Lincoln Park Zoo. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]
Like Levinson, Stenzel said part of the problem is residents and tourists alike sometimes feel too comfortable in Lincoln Park so they don't lock up properly or at all.
"They're under some sort of impression that they're in high security areas. They're really not," she said.
Braun said while the Chicago Police — not the zoo — handles bike theft complaints, the zoo is "always looking to improve the guest experience ... which includes reviewing our bike accessibility."
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