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Make It Tough for Bike Thieves

Cheap locks don’t do the job


September is a busy month for bike thieves, as freshmen adjust to life on an urban campus and warm weather keeps people riding bicycles rather than driving or taking public transportation. This September, 20 bikes were stolen on the Charles River Campus (down from 22 last year), and almost all of them disappeared after their lock’s cables or chains were cut. Most were scarfed up from the area east of St. Mary’s Street, between Comm Ave and Beacon Street.

“There’s a learning curve there,” says Scott Paré, the University’s deputy director of public safety and acting chief of the BU Police Department. “When new students come in, they often use the cheap cable locks that are very easily cut.”

Paré says students should spend a few more dollars and buy a quality U-lock, and they should lock it around the bicycle frame, not just a wheel.

“Thieves are looking for an easy steal,” Paré says. “They don’t want to work at it, so if they see something they can easily cut, they do, and they cut it quickly and get out quickly.”

He points out that it’s important to report all thefts to the police, even if a bike isn’t worth much, because it helps police identify areas where bikes are being stolen, and they can put more resources in those areas.

Stacey King, Parking & Transportation Services transportation demand and marketing manager, is cochair of the University Bike Safety Committee. She recommends that even when using a U-lock, students should lock their bicycles in a bike rack rather than lock them to a tree, bench, fence, parking meter, or signpost. Bike racks are designed to be hard to break compared to other stationary items that might be cut or moved to make stealing a bike easier, she says.

person using bolt cutters to cut bike lock

Cheap cable locks can be a bicycle thief’s favorite target. Photo by shotbydave/iStock

There are 14 bike rooms across the Charles River Campus, most of them in student residence buildings and accessible to the building’s residents. Bike rooms in academic buildings and the Warren Towers bike room are also available to commuting students, faculty, and staff.

The University currently has more than 1,500 active bike registrations, says King, who encourages students to register their bicycle online with Parking & Transportation Services. Registration is required only for access to the Warren Towers bike room, but it can help reunite a lost or stolen bike with its owner. It also helps the University directly communicate with cyclists about bike rack replacements and relocations and bike removals. Bike registration has its perks, too: when the committee holds free bike tune-ups and other events, permit holders are usually the first to know.

“Our number one concern is still safety—obey the rules of the road—especially for those who are new to Boston,” Paré says. “Wear the proper equipment. Wear a helmet, and at night, reflective clothing and lights.”

Joel Brown, writer, BU Today at Boston University
Joel Brown

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

5 Comments on Make It Tough for Bike Thieves

  • Logic Rules on 10.11.2016 at 7:53 am

    Nice article…..remember…locks only keep honest people honest. No mention is made about the new bike locks that both emit an alarm and electric shock to perpetrators or a Lo-Jack for bikes.

    • Dan on 10.11.2016 at 12:09 pm

      Think of how annoying and ineffective loud car alarms are in the city and then reconsider how much worse that would be for bikes. Everyone in Allston/Brighton I’m sure has had the fantasy of going out at 2am and destroying a car that has been sounding its alarm for the last hour; think of what people would do to a bike that’s doing that. The electric shock thing is amazing and probably totally illegal in MA.

  • PeeWee on 10.11.2016 at 12:51 pm

    Last year the University conducted a bicycle commuter survey. The # 1 request to the survey was MORE BIKE RACKS.
    The University encourages bicycle commuting but the bike racks that are currently on the campus are only for 6 bicycles.
    The article mentions bike rooms but it is not clear where I can find a bike room as a part time commuter student.
    Also, Do we know how many current students own a bicycle on campus?

    • Stacey King on 10.13.2016 at 1:47 pm

      Hi PeeWee – you are welcome to use the Warren Towers bike room. You just need to register your bike and get your permit through the BU Bike Safety website and then we can ascribe you access to the room with your BU ID.

      There is not an exact number of student-owned bikes that live on campus each semester, but we know the number of on-campus and commuting cyclists have grown and we’re working to improve bike parking access and awareness. We always welcome suggestions for bike parking locations and encourage the BU community to visit the BU Bike Safety website (www.bu.edu/bikesafety) where you can register your bike, check out the resources, and report abandoned bikes so that we can get them removed from racks and make more space available.

      Please reach out to us at anytime either through the Bike Safety website, by email bikesafety@bu.edu or find us in the Twittersphere @BUBikeSafety

  • Allison on 10.12.2016 at 8:32 pm

    Glad BUPD is working to help keep bikes from being stolen, but I’m still lost as to why they refuse to ticket the cars & trucks that park in the bike lane on Comm Ave Eastbound between St. Mary’s and Kenmore every single day. To the above comment; register your bike down at Parking and you’ll get access to the bike rooms.

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