The Ballad of the Bicycle Bandit
photo by Dave Haygarth
They say that the natural death of a bicycle is for it to be stolen. That means a great percentage of bicycles end up in the hands of criminals. The thieves usually peddle the bikes to used bike shops or sell the metal for scrap. One Toronto bike thief simply hoarded his booty of over two thousand bikes. With so many bikes going through the hands of so many criminals, it's only natural that some of those bikes be employed for dubious purposes. Bank robbery, for example. Bandits, Bicycles and Bank Robberies
David Bruce Voss successfully robbed twenty eight banks in sixteen different states, and he robbed them all on a bicycle. Voss, aka The Bicycle Bandit—a non-descript Caucasian male who supposedly came off as "shy" —would wheel his bike into the bank, and calmly hand the teller a note that said, "This is a robbery. I have a gun. Give me the money now." His method paid off for nearly a year.
"He found a modus operandi that worked, and he stuck with it," said Matt Pellegrino, resident agent in charge of the FBI's Tallahassee, Fla., office. "He stayed true to form the whole time."
The Success of the Bicycle Bandit
According to the police, Voss robbed banks strictly for the money. He was a smart criminal who worked alone. His solitary work habits, his faculty to remain quiet and his ability to not arouse suspicion were supposedly his keys to success. But what about the bicycle? Did that do him any good?
Why Bank Robbers Should Use Bicycles Instead of Getaway Cars
A humorous post on Ken Kifer's Bike Pages lists ten reasons why bank robbers should use bicycles instead of getaway cars. The tongue-in-cheek article is chocked full of good advice for the would-be bicycle bandit. For example, the average amount of money a bank robber gets away with is only 257 dollars and change. A decent car costs at least ten times that. You'd have to rob ten banks just to pay for the cost of the getaway car, not to mention gasoline and routine maintenance. The imaginative article opines that a lack of accomplice is beneficial to a bank robber. In reality, the police touted this as Voss's biggest advantage. Yes. The bicycle did do him some good. Probably more good than the many officials will give credit for. After all, the police had cruisers and helicopters. All Voss had was a bicycle.
The Fall of the Bicycle Bandit
Voss wasn't captured because he rode away from bank robberies on a bicycle. He was, ironically, caught while trying to load his bicycle into his car. He surrendered and admitted everything. However, Voss had robbed so many banks, the Bicycle Bandit could not remember the names and locations of every bank.
Sadly, Voss committed suicide in jail shortly after his capture.
What Did We Learn From All This?
Trevor recently wrote an article about how car accidents kill over 3,000 people a day and ended his post with the summation, "Perhaps it is time to re-realize and re-invent our global methods of human transportation. " So the point of this article is similar. If the a bicycle can be successfully used to pull off something as intricate, problematic and dangerous as a bank robbery, how long can we justify our wasteful transportation systems?
How Bank Robberies on Bicycles Can Benefit Mankind
From Ken Kifer's Bike Pages
Therefore, all factors considered, it makes much better sense for bank robbers to use bicycles for getaways than motor vehicles. The robbers, the public, and even the police will benefit, although in different ways. The robbers will benefit due to reduced expense, and everyone will benefit from the reduced risk. There are some long-term benefits for the police if criminals use bikes instead of motor vehicles as well. Since police motor vehicles are poorly designed to catch someone fleeing on a bike, at least some of the police would have to get bicycles and build up on them as well, and this should be quite beneficial to their health. But what about the bank? I think the bank will benefit also, at least for those cases in which the bank robber has purchased his vehicle. If the robber gets away, the bank has lost an average of $257.83, not an important figure. However, if the robber is caught, he or she can no longer make payments on the motor vehicle, and so it must be sold by the bank at considerable loss. Of course, it is unlikely that the robber is holding up the bank where he has his car payment, but I am speaking in general. It's also very likely that the banks would benefit from robbers using bicycles in another way: the criminals don't have to rob a bank in order to afford a bicycle; thus there might be a reduction in the number of bank robberies.