To a college student, a bike is a crucial tool.
At Arizona State University, where the cheapest parking permit still costs about $200 and parking tickets are handed out like friendship bracelets at a preteen girl’s sleepover, bicycles are the main mode of transportation.
There are so many bikes on a campus that can hold over 50,000 students at a time that thieves are plucking bikes out of holding areas like grapes off a vine. In 2011 alone, 459 bikes were reported stolen to ASU Police — an average of more than one per day for a year. In January, 2012, 30 were reported stolen, according to ASU Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Brian Kiefling.
“Bike theft around here happens so often that students have become desensitized to it,” Kiefling said.
Many students walk out of class or their apartments in the morning to find their lock cut and their bike gone, and the loss of this necessity is as crippling as if the thief stole one of their legs instead. Students ride their bikes to and from classes, to the grocery store, to work, and to get some fresh air after five hours of poring over homework in Hayden library. Their bikes become a part of them — a mechanism that is not only necessary, but beloved.
Gerald Bourguet, a student at Arizona State University’s Downtown campus, came back from Thanksgiving Break to find that both his bike and lock were missing from the parking structure next to his apartment building.
“I was furious,” he said, “my apartment isn’t too far from campus, but without my bike it takes about 25 minutes to walk there now.”
Bourguet’s bike cost him about $100, and he had only owned it for 2 months before it was stolen.
Students are trying to bulk up their bike security, but it hasn’t deterred bike thieves. Noah Findling, a student at ASU and Vista del Sol resident, had locked up his $160 mountain bike with a U-lock and even removed the seat and carried it with him when he wasn’t around his bike. It was still stolen from him about a week ago, after he started leaving the seat on the bike, he said.
“Once I started chaining the seat to the bike, it was gone…seat, chain, bike, everything,” Findling said.
Findling reported the bike stolen with ASU Police, but it is hard for police to pinpoint stolen bicycles unless it has been registered. Students can register their bikes online to make it easier for police to find them, according to Alex Davis, Director of Initiatives at Campus Student Sustainability Initiatives.
They simply fill out a form to create a record of the serial number of their bike, which makes it easier for police to locate them, he said.
However, it isn’t similar to an insurance policy. Students do not receive compensation for the stolen bike, and registration does not add extra protection to the bike, Davis said.
“The most important thing anyone can do to keep their bike safe is to use a U-lock to lock both their bike frame and wheel to a bike rack,” Davis said.