'A super happy positive outcome': Stolen bike returned to its owner, thanks to Bunz
Bizarre case of stolen bike with lilac handlebars shows power of Toronto-based trading site
Christy Dukitsch was hustling to make it to a concert after work when she spotted it: a blue street bike with lilac-coloured handlebars locked up near University Avenue and Queen Street West.
"I had my face buried in my phone looking for a good song," she recalled. "I'm not even sure why I looked up. But the lilac handlebars jogged my memory — not something you see on a bike all the time."
Dukitsch matched the bike in front of her with the one Melissa Vincent had reported stolen.
Dukitsch, Vincent and the bike thief don't know each other, but all are connected by the made-in-Toronto trading site, Bunz.
So through Bunz, and on Bunz, comes the story of the stolen and then returned bicycle with the lilac handlebars, and an object lesson in how powerful Bunz can be.
'Help!!! Someone just stole my bike!'
Vincent parked her Raleigh CCM bicycle outside of Osgoode Hall before 9 a.m. last Saturday morning.
"The lock is absurdly large so you have to make sure both sides are in, and I think originally in a rush to lock it I left a side hanging out," she explained.
It was a shabby bike when she bought it — she paid $15, second-hand — but she had lovingly refurbished it to make it her prized possession.
"I've never worked on anything mechanical before," she said about creating her dream bike. "It was incredibly empowering and the one the material object I was the most proud of."
She said she put more than 100 hours of work into the bike, including installing the aforementioned, eye-catching lilac-coloured handlebars.
Vincent was shocked when it was stolen. She went directly onto Bunz Trading Zone to post about her cherished two-wheeler.
"I do not value material possessions but this means every bit of the world to me," she wrote on the Bunz Facebook page. "Please please please keep an eye out for it."
Bunz, a peer-to-peer trading site and semi-secret group on Facebook, is a Toronto marketplace for exchanging goods, services, news, photos, positive vibes and just about anything else. The only rule is no money is allowed.
So Vincent initially received a deluge of sympathy for her stolen bike — some of her well-wishers made her tear up, she said — but not many clues as to its whereabouts.
All eyes on Bunz
After Dukitsch saw the lilac handlebars, she immediately posted a photo in the comments section of Vincent's post. The Bunz community was ecstatic.
"It's totally her bike, it has to be," read one comment.
"OMG GIRL YOUR BIKE HAS BEEN FOUND," read another.
"Fingers crossed for a super happy positive outcome," wrote Dukitsch.
When Dukitsch had to leave the bike to make the concert, another Bunz group member — a singular Bunz member is called a Bun — came to the scene to guard the bike until Vincent saw the post.
When Vincent got there, a positive I.D. was made.
"It was my original lock which was the most bizarre thing!" said Vincent. She put her key in and unlocked the bike. It was back in her possession.
She "freaked out."
Wait a second...
The bicycle had successfully been reunited with its rightful owner. But how? Many in the Bunz community are still trying to put together the puzzle pieces.
Who returns a bike they stole? And locks it up in the same exact spot?
"I can only imagine that they took it out, tried to ride my very finicky bike that only works on a very specific setting, then eventually put it back," said Vincent.
The prevailing theory on Bunz, though, is that the thief was also on the site, saw that Vincent posted about it, and in fear of getting caught, decided to return it.
That's the storyline Dukitsch is choosing to believe.
"Bunz is a giant community that reaches a broad audience," she said. "So I think that the thief saw her post is very possible. It was locked so close to the original theft location."
No matter how the bike found its way back to Osgoode Hall, both parties credit Bunz with the happy ending.
"It's nice to know that we can all come together as a community and help each other," said Dukitsch. "This whole experience hit me right in the feels!"