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Bike rack:Make It Tough for Bike Thieves

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.”
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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.

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.”