Students and campus safety recommend actions to prevent bike theft

A lone bike wheel locked to a bike rack on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis on Aug. 27.
A lone bike wheel locked to a bike rack on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis on Aug. 27.
Jason May

Lonely tires, tireless bike frames, broken locks and clipped chains are a common sight outside of campus dorms, according to Oregon State University students. Students often leave their bikes chained outside their dorm rooms only to find lights, bells, phone holders, seats, tires and even full bikes missing the next day.

However, OSU students, public safety and members of OSU’s on-campus bike club have a number of tips to prevent your bike, or at least parts of it, from getting stolen.

Sophia Wells, a second-year biochemistry student at OSU had her phone holder and lights stolen from her bike, something that a college student can take a long time to save up for.

“Having my lights stolen was a big inconvenience as I didn’t have much money to spend, outside of the money in my meal plan,” Wells said. “I had to go months without new lights because I couldn’t afford them, which made riding at night unsafe.”

Students at OSU feel that bike security is something that is not made entirely known to new students and they are set to change that fact.

The primary way for students to ensure the best chance of getting their bike back should it be stolen is through Project 529—a nonprofit organization that OSU works with to keep track of bikes on campus. The registration form can be found at 529 Garage.

Members of the Bicycle Advocacy Club, a student club at OSU, feel that the system is a student’s best bet should their bike go missing.

“We have been actively promoting Project 529, encouraging everyone to register their bikes and set an example for others,” said Jaron Rosenau, president of the Bicycle Advocacy Club. “Registering your bicycle is the only way to recover it from the police when it is found.”

According to OSU Public Safety Lieutenant Jim Yon, this registration alone allowed Public Safety to return bikes to students last year.

“The most important thing is the serial number and manufacturer,” Yon said. “I know last year we recovered a few bikes just based on this, and we were able to do it quickly because we had the information. We were able to get them back to students.”

The registration allows Public Safety to keep a better eye out for a stolen bike, and the sticker given with registration, to be placed on the bike, acts as another layer of deterrent to theft.

Although students have heard about Project 529, they feel that it could use more advertising on campus, and insisted that their peers should not solely rely on that protection.

Angel Lopez, a third-year mechanical engineering student, said that although it can be helpful to track down bikes through the system, it cannot stop someone from removing the sticker and taking the bike, or even taking individual components attached to the bike.

Lopez had pieces of his bike stolen in the past, including the seat post, pedals, seat, lights, and fenders, and other students are in similar spots.

“I had my bike parked, specifically at a rack that was under a camera, for only two nights before my $175 carbon fiber seat was stolen,” Rosenau said. “The camera person said ‘nothing could be found’ regarding my seat missing on camera.”

That frustration is what led him to start the Advocacy Club in the first place in order to let more students know how to keep their belongings safe.

Erik Jacobsen, a microbiology student and an officer of the Bicycle Advocacy Club, said that knowing which locks to use is the most important thing for a bike owner to understand.

“Most cable locks can be cut with concealable manual tools, padlocks can be opened with a hammer, but most U-locks require power tools or bottle jacks to remove, (which draws attention). The more difficult you make your bike to steal; the less likely someone will put in the effort,” stated Jacobsen.

But he made it clear that in order for a U-lock to work, it needs to be used correctly.

“Lock your frame to an immovable object (such as a bike rack) and absolutely lock your wheels to the frame or rack if they have quick releases,” Jacobsen said.

Yon and OSU Public Safety had similar recommendations.

“We are big fans of the U-lock, those are usually the best,” Yon said. “Not that those are 100% because people are bringing grinders in—usually folks from off-campus—and they’re cutting them.”

However, Yon said that deterring theft with a good lock system is the best course of action.

“If they see a similar bike next to you with just a basic chain lock or a cable lock, they’re going to cut that and be gone, because it takes time to get through the U-locks,” Yon said.

When asked about what OSU Police are doing in preventative actions against bike theft, Yon mentioned that communication is their biggest priority, along with watching out for bike theft around campus.

“A lot of communications on simple things to make sure that (the bike) is secure… don’t ever leave it,” Yon said in regards to communication with new students. Also saying, “when we’re out on our normal patrols, we keep an eye on the bike racks.”

However, students felt that the university downplays the problems of bike theft on a campus full of college students with little consistent income.

“The university mentioned that bike theft exists but they didn’t emphasize how bad of a problem it is or how it happens,” Wells said.

Jacobsen said it would be helpful if OSU included information about bike safety and security during START orientations to spread the word about how to protect bikes.

The OSU Bicycle Advocacy Club will meet at the Student Experience Center Plaza on Sept. 28 at 4 p.m.

For more information about bike lockers, racks, and general tips see the OSU transportation services website. For more information about reports to OSU public safety, see their dashboard.

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