College environments, where cycling may be the optimal mode of transportation, present an increased opportunity for bicycle and bike accessory thet.
“That’s the beauty and the curse of working for a university... It lends itself to people coming and going in high traffic,” Mathews said.
According to the National Bike Registry, “Nowhere is bicycle thet a bigger problem than on college campuses.” While the 33 reports at OU may not reflect this, police reports don’t show the whole picture.
Integrated Cycle Systems, creator of the B.A.D. Bones U-bar lock upgrade product, has been quoted citing national estimates that “only one third of stolen bikes are reported, so the actual figures are possibly three times higher than what is reported.” Taking these unreported thets into account, “a four-year student bicyclist faces a 53 percent (1 in 2) chance of losing their bike to thet,” the company stated in its study.
Mathews agreed that failure to report thet promptly increases the diiculty of retrieving a stolen bike. “If we get reports of anything that’s stolen, we’re always going to be looking out for it,” he said.
Describing an incident from a week earlier, Mathews said a student reported her bike stolen around two minutes ater the incident. Within half an hour, he said, the bike was retrieved and returned.
OU student Emily Roe discussed several experiences she has had with bike thet. Last November, she let her bike of a path on the Ridges, university-owned property south across the Hocking River, and returned to ind it missing. Roe iled a report with OUPD but lacked proper identiication for the bike, a common obstacle to retrieval, Mathews said.
While studying in Mexico winter quarter, Roe said a friend informed her that Roe’s bike had shown up for sale on Craigslist. It had been purchased by a Columbus pawnshop for $10.
In a separate incident, Roe’s bike was stolen her freshman year, to be eventually discovered outside the Washington Hall third-loor men’s bathroom. She said a large part of recovering stolen bikes is “having friends in the bike community.”
Roe has had some association with the Athens Bicycle Cooperative, an organization that takes used bike donations and rebuilds them into useable bikes, some of which go into the AYBiTS (Athens Yellow Bike Taxi Service) collective. AYBiTS is a bike-share program started by Eric Cornwell that aims to provide Athens with a stock of communal bikes.
OU Deputy Police Chief Mark Mathews agreed that failure to report theft promptly increases the difficulty of retrieving a stolen bike. “If we get reports of anything that’s stolen, we’re always going to be looking out for it,” he said.
“[AYBiTS is] like a community bike share where the bikes are supposed to wander around and be used by diferent people within the same day,” Cornwell said.
Members donate used parts, register with the program, and are given a master key that unlocks any AYBiTS bike on campus. he idea is that, eventually, any AYBiTS member can take a Yellow Bike when needed, ride it to his or her destination, then lock it and leave it for another member.
“It got a lot of good attention of the start, and people signed up for it and people have been using the bikes, but some of the bikes have kind of wandered and strayed, and I don’t know where they all are,” Cornwell said.
With increased support, the program has the potential to create an environment where bikes are readily accessible, discouraging what Mathews called “joyride” thet.
Unfortunately, Cornwell’s AYBiTS program relies on an honor code that may some students don’t adhere to.
“Some people have kind of like taken personal Yellow Bike Taxis and kept them at their house, but I don’t really care too much. he program’s still working to enough of a degree,” Cornwell said.
Mathews said the local drinking culture strongly inluences the number of Athens bike thets, and may inhibit programs such as AYBiTS.
“I guarantee you that 95 percent is alcohol related. And the other ive is just people being absolute, utter idiots,” Mathews said.
his may explain the many strange accounts of OU bike thet and vandalism. In an e-mail recently received by Cornwell concerning one of the taxi bikes, a friend stated, “I got one of your bikes here that was retrieved from a tree, yes a tree, at James Hall. It’s not locked up so I’m loath to put it outside.”FIND US ONLINE @ WWW.ATHENSNEWS.COM