23 January 2015

Get An Education--But Don't Lose Your Bike!

If you get all of your news from the mainstream media, you might think that the most common crimes on university campuses are date rape and other kinds of sexual assault.  I am glad that such incidents are now taken seriously; when I was an undergraduate, victims usually suffered in silence.  

However, such crimes are not the most common on higher education sites.  Nor are other assaults or driving under the influence.  None of those crimes comes close, in frequency, to the most common offense of all.

And what might that offense be?  Well, because you're reading this blog, you might have guessed:  bicycle theft.  According to one study, one out of every thirteen bikes students bring with them to school will be stolen.  What's equally disturbing, I think, is that only one out of every 315 stolen bikes is recovered.

From Visual.ly

What's most surprising, though, is the campuses that experience the most theft:  those of elite (or, at any rate, expensive) private universities and suburban campuses.  In other words, bikes are most often stolen from those campuses that are perceived to be "safe".

Why is that the case?  Perhaps students are more likely to let their guard down on such campuses.  Or, perhaps, those students come from environments that didn't inculcate them with the wariness of someone from a lower-income, higher-crime area.  

My guess, though, is that thieves, being the opportunists they are, go to the campuses where rich kids study and congregate.  On such campuses, thieves are more likely to find bikes worth stealing and, most important of all, one that is unlocked.  Also, it's not unusual to find bikes that, while locked, have been on the same spot for weeks, or even months, such as when students go on field trips or internships.  Sometimes a person who has never before stolen anything in his or her life will assume that such a bike was abandoned and therefore there for the taking.

While some might not think bike theft is a serious problem--and I'm not about to suggest that it's on the same level as sexual assault--for many students, and even faculty and staff members, bicycles are the main (or only) means of transportation.  Also, a bike is many a student's most valuable possession.  Those, I believe, are reasons to take bike theft on campuses more seriously.


  1. I must admit that I considered pinching an abandoned, but poorly locked, high-end bike at Texas Tech after the end of the Spring Semester in which my daughter graduated. Honesty prevailed, so someone else got the bike.

  2. Steve--I've seen bikes like that and have been tempted. I must say, though, that it's disturbing to think that because of our honesty, someone else's dishonesty will prevail!

  3. I loved having my bike at Kent State in my days there -- but never left it locked outdoors for longer than the length of a class period. My roommates might not have understood or like it, but that bike always spent its nights in the dorm room (or later, in the apartment). I did have a friend back then whose bike was stolen, and he was also one of the few people i've ever heard of whose bike was recovered -- not by the police, but by himself, many months later, when he found someone locking up the stolen bike. He confronted the person, who said they had bought it from someone else, then ran off before police could come.

  4. Brooks--I can't imagine being on a college campus without a bike. Unfortunately, I think you pretty much have to keep your bike in your living quarters--which, if you're a student, are probably cramped--if you want to keep your bike!