The SkunkLock will make bike vandals vomit
There is an old saw about bike locks:
All bicycles weigh fifty pounds. A thirty-pound bicycle needs a twenty-pound lock. A forty-pound bicycle needs a ten-pound lock. A fifty-pound bicycle doesn't need a lock at all.
But these days even the twenty pound lock is susceptible to battery powered angle grinders and Sawzalls, and can be cut in about a minute and a half, often in broad daylight with people watching. So Daniel Idzkowski looked for an alternative. He writes in a press release:
After witnessing first hand, and becoming victims of bike theft ourselves, we realized that people don’t need a bigger stronger lock, we needed a lock with a fundamental deterrent. After six months of work, we created SkunkLock.
If a thief tries to cut through the SkunkLock, it releases a proprietary compound they call Formula D_1, “a legally compliant pressurized gas that causes shortness of breathing, potential compromisation of sight, and induces vomiting if a thief comes into close contact with the chemical.”
© Daniel Idzkowski and engineer Yves Perrenoud
They don’t quite say what the formula actually is, but give some clues that it is a type of pepper spray, a capsaicin compound. Whatever it is, they claim that “the chemicals are so disgusting they induce vomit in the majority of cases, and elicit an instinctive response to run away immediately.”
I wondered whether this is actually legal and in fact, they note in the Indiegogo campaign that are are some states with restrictions on pepper spray products, so they are developing a version that doesn’t have capsaicin as a primary irritant. They are also checking the laws in other countries so that they can sell internationally, although for some reason they do not include Canada, which would be a big market.
Lloyd Alter/ sign in friendly Fort Lauderdale/CC BY 2.0
Other jurisdictions ban “booby traps”; where I live, “any traps that pose a threat to emergency response personnel, law enforcement officials, and members of the public are against the law.” I wonder what happens if you park your bike in an illegal spot, or in friendly Fort Lauderdale where this sign was on every column of a building, and the police or building management come and saw off the lock. That’s probably why it is a good thing that they print SkunkLock in such big letters, and why they make it easy for you to get another key.
We have shown a lot of smart locks that ping your phone when the thief rides away, and which look a lot less attractive these days as the Internet of Things looks less secure than ever. Daniel notes that “smart Locks (think those with fingerprint readers, GPS trackers, alarms, or are app enabled) are actually pretty dumb when it comes to preventing your bike from being stolen… For these reasons, SkunkLock is a purely mechanical and chemical solution to deterring theft.”
That sounds smart to me. More on Indiegogo, where they have blown through their target already.