Bye-bye bicycle

Bike thefts ramp up


The National Bike Registry reports bicycle theft as the most common property theft on college campuses. 

In a 2004 study, Integrated Cycle Systems found that a four-year college student with a bicycle on campus has a 53 percent chance of having the bicycle stolen.

Bike thefts are a part of our reality, even here at little Augustana.


Dean of Students Jim Bies said that due to Augustana’s small size, bicycle theft is not as big of a problem as it is on other campuses, but there has been an uptick in thefts in the past two years.

Director of Campus Safety Rick Tupper said that Augustana averages 10 to 12 bike thefts a semester, with the most thefts occurring around September and May. 

Tupper said the bikes stolen range from less expensive to very expensive, and that the bike stolen typically depends on the type of theft.

“Really, we see two kinds of bike thieves on campus,” Tupper said. “Someone trying to get from point A to point B and just taking a bike for a ride, or someone who knows what they are after and is trying to make a profit off the bike.”

During the last two years, Tupper said one thief stole multiple bikes from the campus, but was eventually caught.

“This guy was organized,” said Tupper. “He would always use bolt cutters on more expensive bikes.”

Tupper said that although bike theft is difficult to counter, there are ways students can prevent it.

Campus Safety requires all bicycles left on campus over the summer be registered with the school’s bike registry, which helps track down stolen bikes.

Tupper and Bies both said that the most important part of preventing bike theft is locking the bike well.  Tupper recommends using carbon fiber U-locks, locks typically made of carbon fiber that sturdily lock around the frame, as opposed to chain locks that can be easily cut by bolt cutters. 

Even with high-end locks, bicycle theft is not 100 percent secure. 

Graphic by Wyatt Dickson

Cycle Magazine, in a 2008 study, tested multiple bike locks that had top security certifications, and found that all locks tested could be broken in less than 42 seconds, using any tool from bolt cutters to pocket knives. 

In 2013, the FBI estimated that the total damage cost of bicycle thefts in the US is $350 million each year, with an average cost of $250 per bike.

Kassa 3, a Dutch news program, made a video with a former bicycle thief showing that eight consumer-grade locks, ranging in price from $40 to $200, could be broken in ten to 84 seconds. 

Tupper said it is important to lock your bike properly, securing the whole bike, so that an opportunistic bike thief cannot simply remove a wheel and take the frame.

“Bike theft does happen, and it’s difficult to prevent,” Tupper said. “You really have to take the proper steps to prevent it. Secure the bike with the right tools in the right way, and that will probably prevent 99 percent of bike thefts.”

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