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Bike theft on campus sees 100 per cent spike from last year

By Scott Strasser, May 17 2016 —

Bike theft is up 100 per cent at the University of Calgary compared to this time last year, according to campus security.

Eighteen bikes were reported stolen in the first four months of 2016 — double the nine stolen in the same period in 2015.

“It’s definitely an endemic problem,” said campus security manager of community operations Rick Geyson. “It’s high exposure, so we’re going to see that theft, unfortunately.” BikeChart_SamanthaLucy_0519

Campus security officer Kris Ward has tracked bike theft data at the U of C since 2011. According to his stats, 177 bikes  have been stolen in that time.

Ward’s stats show 2013 and 2015 as particularly theft-heavy years, with 39 and 46 bikes reported stolen, respectively.

Campus security estimates that the value of bikes stolen in 2015 was $41,000, with the most expensive bike costing approximately $4,000. They estimate the value of bikes stolen so far in 2016 to be roughly $7,500.

“We’re seeing everything [being taken], from high-end mountain bikes to your $150 Canadian Tire specials,” Geyson said. “I’ve seen it go up to $1,200–$1,500.”

Geyson said the recent spike could be due to Calgary’s warm winter, which meant more people were biking to campus. He said another reason could be that riders are using insufficient locks.

“Unfortunately it’s very easy for someone to buy a pair of quality snips that will cut through most cable locks,” Geyson said. “People are buying a nice bike, but they might not be spending the money on a nice lock to keep it.”

The spike in stolen bikes comes shortly after a general uptake in theft at the U of C. Places like the kinesiology locker rooms and the TFDL have seen increases in theft this year. 

Geyson said bike theft occurs throughout campus and isn’t limited to any specific area.

“It’s all across campus. [For instance], by kinesiology we have a large exposed bike rack and we have bike racks all across campus.”

Torleif Landsgaard is a shop coordinator with Bike Root, a Students’ Union club and non-profit society that provides members with the tools, parts and know-how to fix their own bikes. While he’s never had a bike stolen on campus, he had a bike stolen in nearby Brentwood that was later found at a U of C residence.

“I left it locked up at a restaurant with a buddy’s lock because I forgot my key. They smashed the lock and stole mine, but left his,” Landsgaard said.

Landsgaard said he’s also left his bike unlocked on campus with no consequences.

“It seems the secluded bike racks or areas near train stations are the worst for bike theft,” he said.

U of C parking and transportation created a secure bike storage cage in the southeast corner of the arts parkade in the summer of 2014. The area is accessible with a $30 electronic access card, which is valid for one year. The cage can fit 54 bikes.

While the cage was built as part of the U of C’s sustainability plans, associate director of parking and transportation services Susan Austen said some riders use it to reduce the chance of bike theft.

“We had discussions with people who would bring a ‘lesser’ bike to campus for that reason,” Austen said. “Students would like to ride their bikes, but they were uncomfortable with the current arrangements for keeping their bikes here during the day.”

Austen said around 30 riders currently use the cage.

Parking and transportation services created a second secure bike storage space at the Foothills campus in May 2015, which can hold 254 bikes. Austen said around 140 people currently use the Foothills cage.

According to Austen, parking and transportation services would like to expand the secure bike storage program. She said another cage near the LRT station would be the best choice.

“If it took off on the main campus, it would be nice to see,” Austen said.

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