October has ended, and with it, so has the season for bikes as an easy mode of transportation. As the weather gets progressively cooler, biking becomes an increasingly unexciting option to quickly go from one place to another. For many of us, a bicycle is the ideal mode of transportation. Not only does it cost nothing to fuel it, but bikes can be low maintenance, highly reliable and very good for a de-stressing commute after a long day of classes. However, our bikes are not as safe as we would like to believe. Occasionally someone will return to the location where they left their bike only to discover a lock destroyed by bolt cutters in the place of their ride.
As with most large places, theft happens, and the University of Waterloo campus is no exception. Between January and October of this year, 79 bikes have been reported stolen to campus police, while many more bike thefts have undoubtedly been left unreported. While the number of thefts may seem small in comparison to the 3,247 bikes reported stolen in Toronto last year (Toronto Star), the loss of a bike can prove highly problematic. Whether you are looking forward to a relaxing ride home or racing to make it to a class, discovering that your bike has been stolen guarantees to put a damper in your day, and many days after that. The Iron Warrior’s own Editor-In-Chief, Jon Martin, had his bike stolen over a year ago. It has yet to be replaced. Bike theft is not cool, but it is inevitable when nearly 30 000 of us are clustered in this tiny campus. The concentration of students and bikes makes us a target for ner-do-wells both from within our student body and from outside. People who are looking to reuse your bikes parts, or maybe even resell your entire bike on kijij. This is by no means a large amount of thieves, the people you see around you every day are unlikely to engage in any kind of theft whatsoever, but in the off case a bike is going to be stolen it’s always best if the bike isn’t yours.
Protecting your bike begins with locking it. Staff Sergeant Dale Roe, whose job includes security operation on campus, can’t stress enough the importance of a sturdy lock. ‘A bike lock has two weak points, the chain and the lock itself’ – and of course the system is only as strong as its weakest component. Though chains and woven steel cables give the user more flexibility in securing their bikes, the chains can be easily snapped off with a good pair of bolt cutters. It takes mere seconds and will not be noticed by passersby. U locks on the other hand can only be broken with considerable noise and effort, making them a better option for securing your bike. EIT, the dinosaur building next to DC, has been recommended for its superior freestanding bike racks and protective overhang. MC is also great for offering some protection to your bike. At this point, after all this effort, you might as well have two bike locks. Leave one u-lock on campus and carry another one with you so when you lock up both wheels can also be secured to a bike rack. If it’s difficult to detach your bike from its surroundings, it’s most likely that thieves won’t bother. Locking all removable components like seats and handle bars to the bike frame is also advisable since biking without those parts proves quite difficult, but that’s really up to you.
In addition to making your bike difficult to access there is significant strategy involved. ‘Always lock your bike in an area with high pedestrian traffic’ Jared Hébert, a volunteer at the SLC bike shop, advises. The best places are free of lampposts, bushes, and other objects which will hide a pair of boltcutters from view. Also try to ‘park your bike next to a nicer bike with a weaker lock’ or some variation there in so that your bike is not the most appealing one on the rack. In short, the uglier looking the bike, the better; you do not want to have the shiniest bike around. If you are a hard core bicycle rider keeping a cruddy bike for commuting and a good bike for pleasure riding is advised. The time of year is also key; few bike thefts take place in the winter while the summer with its reduced student population seems to be less targeted by thieves. Between September-October and March-April are the times when the majority of bikes are reported missing, according to Roe. He also notes that making your bike distinctive is a good deterrent, since thieves don’t want to risk being recognized. Even years later you might be able to recognize your stolen bike. In short, make your bike as unique and distinctive as possible! Using an engraver you can carve your initials or a number unique to you, directly in to your bike. If you want to go a little bit further you could paint your ride neon green or maybe a stylish purple? It is tough to steal a truly styling bike since people will associate that ‘awesome bike’ to the ‘awesome person who rides it’. An association thieves seek to void. Take a picture while you are at it, identifying your bike will be way easier.
What do you do if your bike is stolen? Whether your bike is a rust pile that is just barely able to get you from point A to point B or a sleek beautiful vehicle epitomizing the magnificence of design, reporting the theft is important. Knowing the frequency and locations of crimes allows campus police to map out the occurrences and develop a better plan to prevent future thefts. Though your bike may not have been spared, more frequent monitoring by police may help protect someone else’s. A lot of thefts may even warrant several more well placed video cameras. (Yes, you are being watched!) If your bike is stolen off campus you are encouraged to call the Waterloo regional Police while you can report on campus thefts by calling ‘519 888 4911’ (note the clever play on 911.) or contacting campus police at x22222. You can even go to the police website; http://police.uwaterloo.ca/. The web site even has a helpful page online where you can record the serial numbers of important possessions, like bikes and laptops and save them with the police in case you are the victim of theft. ‘No one thinks they will become a victim until they are’ Roe says. If you think you see a bike theft in action, contact the police, get a description of the person stealing the bike and take a moment to memorize what the bike looks like. Often few people realize they are witnessing a crime taking place.
Stolen bikes which are picked up are stored for 90 days, but sadly the bikes are seldom returned to their owners. Bikes are kept at the campus police station on campus, located north of DC, or you can check with the Regional Police Northern Division, located at 14 Erb St west. It is recommended that people who have been the victims of bike theft check in with the police every two to three weeks. However, reclaiming a stolen bike is difficult. For police, it is much like finding a twenty dollar bill; there are no distinguishing features to prove who the owner is and there are too many people wishing to claim it. If hoping to recover you stolen bike come armed with a photo of your bike and lots of detailed knowledge to convey to the police that your bike does in fact belong to you. You can use an engraver to scratch an important number like a passport number or your student number in to less visible parts of the bike frame. This helps to convince police of ownership. Having the serial number or a photograph can’t hurt either.
You might also be able to repurchase your bike from an online site. Though occasionally it is simply a ‘Joy rider’, who grabs your bike to get them from one place to another before unceremoniously dumping your prized possession in bushes or a stream, more often the thief looks immediately at resale. Keeping tabs on popular sites may reunite you with your favourite transportation device. This is not necessarily the case, however, for most stolen bikes there is no happy ending. Once your first nice bike has been stolen it may be time to sit back and come to terms with the fact that for your five years in university town, a pretty bike with all the gadgets may not be the best option unless you can part with a lot of dough, a reliable single speed perhaps? This brings us full cycle, what happens to those bikes that aren’t claimed?
After the 90 days bikes are handed over to the campus bike shop where volunteers return the abandoned bikes to working order. These are the same volunteers who will help you repair your bike, so be nice to them at all times. At the beginning of the spring and fall terms, a bike auction is held where you can get a bike for a reasonable price. Bikes here also include bikes deemed abandoned by campus police. In order to maintain a clean, well working campus, police tag seemingly abandoned bikes with a notice requiring the owner to remove their bike in a certain amount of time. If the tags are not removed, bikes are taken and held for 90 days after which they go in to the bike auction. You can’t just leave your bike on campus between terms; it will not be here when you return!
Admittedly this article is not the best timed; my advice? Cut it out, put it on your fridge and forget about this little piece of paper until biking has again become an appealing option. As you move out of res or new people move in to your apartment, they might possibly remember that getting a bike is as easy as attending the bike auction in the SLC, or maybe they will decide to better identify their bike. As rumour has it, one first year actually went through three bikes, and $2,500, before finally breaking down and getting a commuting bike. Be prepared, don’t let that victim be you.
Before closing this paper, take a few moments to consider the other things that could be stolen as we all retreat inside to study in the warmth and comfort of warm school buildings. Many phone and laptop’s get stolen as well, especially if the owners have left them unattended. While you are putting away your bike also take a moment to write down your serial number and make sure you have all your receipts. More cell phones and laptops are stolen then bikes, and in loosing electrical devices you are also in danger of losing valuable or sentimental data as well as being at risk for identity theft. Never leave your things unattended, with the cost of tuition people may be getting desperate! Seriously though, crimes are carried out by students as well as people from outside our community. You will be a victim if you aren’t a little bit cautious. If you read the posters and follow them than your years here at UW will be fun and (relatively stress free). Never forget, you too can become a victim. Victims are the people who don’t think they will ever be the victims less often are they the people who know they could be.