The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Thieves Go High Tech in Bike Arms Race

Reed College has a bike theft problem. In the 2011/2012 academic year the campus suffered 55 bike thefts, a 77% increase from the 31 bike thefts in the 2010/2011 academic year.

The problem is not one that will likely go away. Director of Community Safety Gary Granger believes that bike thieves began using battery powered bolt cutters last spring to quickly cut through U-locks. Despite the $2,500 price tag for these premium and portable bolt cutters, thieves continue to find bike theft a profitable crime.

In the wake of continuing bike thefts and increasingly resourceful thieves, students have become more aware of the dangers of storing bikes outdoors and have taken advantage of the indoor bike storage rooms located in many dorm buildings. However, indoor bike storage is inaccessible to many students in Cross Canyon dorms. Students in Chittick, Woodbridge, McKinley, and Griffin, whose dorms lack their own bike storage rooms, are currently unable to access Bragdon’s indoor bike storage rooms. These students are left with no choice but to secure their bicycles to nearby outdoor bike racks raising the risk that their bikes may be stolen.

Cross Canyon and Language House Residence Director, Nayland Olsen, promises a fix to the Bragdon bike storage room that will allow all students living in Cross Canyon dorms access in the near future. For Steve Yeadon, Facilities Services’ maintenance manager, a solution to the bike storage room is not as simple as giving all students access to covered bike storage. According to Yeadon there is likely not enough indoor bike storage to house every student’s bicycle. Additional indoor bike storage is not likely in the short term, says Yeadon. “For our foreseeable future I don’t see a bunch of outdoor bike storage units popping up on campus.”

Currently, the campus master plan would require significant revision to allow for the construction of new indoor bike storage units. Changes to the campus master plan require approval from city officials and may require Reed to undertake costly construction to pre-existing infrastructure to support new bike storage units. Even with increased access to indoor bike storage on campus, Yeadon is concerned that thieves will continue to find ways to steal bicycles. He warns that with the convenience that comes with universal access to indoor storage, there is also an increased risk that bikes may be stolen. “There may be no be all and end all solution,” he says.

Both Yeadon and Olsen recommend students take a proactive approach to avoid bike theft. Yeadon says, “many thefts are thefts of convenience,” and recommends that students always lock their bikes, even in the indoor bike storage rooms. Olsen encourages students to “keep a positive attitude” and “recognize that bike storage is a really cool perk, but not an entitlement.” But, Olsen says, despite the availability of indoor bike storage, many of the rooms are not at full capacity.

Unfortunately for many Reedies, a proactive approach is not always enough to protect a bike. Despite securing his bike with a high-end U-lock, Joseph Rennie ’15, had his bike stripped of parts this summer. A graduation present, the bike was locked outside of the Chinese House and was disassembled during the night. The thieves left the U-lock and frame behind after making off with most of the bike’s parts. Refusing to let the thieves get the better of him, Rennie returned the U-lock and sold the frame the thieves had left behind. Using that money Rennie purchased a “shitty bike” and has so far avoided another theft.


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