Large number of bikes encourages thefts

By Matea Wasend

Imagine trying to ride a bike without a front tire, brakes and handlebars.That is what Andrew Lund ’12 was left with after someone stole his parts off of his bike from where it was locked outside of Wallace Hall last year.

According to Director of Security Terry Gorman, the number of bikes on campus has shot up dramatically in the past few years as car registration numbers have dipped. With the increase in bikes has come an increase in bike thefts.

Lund now stores his bike in his room to keep it safe, but many students have no room for a bike in a small dorm room. During the spring and fall especially, bike racks all over campus are overcrowded, presenting potential bike thieves with a wide range of choices.

Gorman attributes thefts to the high numbers of bikes that are either locked improperly or see almost no use. Many students bring very nice bikes to campus only to ride them a few times over the course of a semester.

The underuse Gorman describes is evident in the number of bikes left chained to bike racks after students have gone home for the summer, which was nearly 100 last May. Every year, Facilities Services cuts forgotten bikes off the racks and sends them to a bike school in Wisconsin.

“We have to liberate all the leftover bikes,” Gorman said. “Bad guys will come around if the bikes are left.”

Gorman cites overcrowded bike racks as another problem, especially when the number of bikes chained near academic buildings prevents snow from being plowed. While this has inspired a new policy that forbids students from locking bikes next to academic buildings overnight, Gorman still wishes that more students would reconsider whether they truly need a bike.

“We need a way to get to the first-years before they come and tell them ‘You know, you really don’t need a bike,'” Gorman said. “If you’re going to have one, get an inexpensive one. You’ll be a lot less concerned if it’s stolen.”

Gorman wishes those students who use their bikes only a few times per semester would leave them at home, and use Mac Bike’s “Bike Share” program instead. “Bike Share” allows students to check out bikes from the library with their student IDs for up to six days at a time

Lund, on the other hand, said he uses his bike quite a lot during the fall and spring.

“I think it’s worth bringing a bike to school as long as you have a way to keep it locked up and make sure it doesn’t get stolen,” Lund said. “I’d recommend locking the bike frame to the bike rack and locking your wheels to the bike frame, or keeping your bike in your room.”

Gorman has toyed with the idea of collaborating with residential life to implement a program that allows students to register bikes, which might decrease the number of thefts and aid in the recovery of stolen bikes. However, he said he has not sensed much student interest in this possibility.

For the time being, Gorman recommends that students record the serial numbers of their bikes, take pictures of them and even suggests stuffing a business card down the seat tube, which would help in identifying recovered bikes.