ARTICLE

All About College Bicycle Theft

It’s smart to insure bikes on college campuses

College campus bicycle theft is eerily common. While some campuses may provide theft prevention resources, many still don’t which leaves student cyclists in a bind.

Let’s dive into college bike theft and cover some ways we can prevent it.

The Theft Statistics

Many new students may be used to storing their bicycles at home, locked safely in a garage. The transition to on-campus living or being away from home presents new challenges for students they aren’t aware of yet like:

  • More than 50% of all property crimes reported to the University of California are for bike theft
  • Over 1.5 million bicycles are stolen every year on campus
  • There’s a 53% chance one of those bicycles belongs to you (or your student, if you’re a thoughtful parent reading this)

These statistics aren’t exactly inspiring or uplifting and since many cyclists don’t report bike theft, these numbers could be even higher in reality.

What To Do If Your Bicycle Is Stolen As A College Student

Statistically speaking, there’s a decent chance your bicycle may be stolen on campus – or it has already been stolen.

So, what are my options?

We’re sad your bike was stolen, but we’re glad you asked.

If you registered your bicycle’s serial number with online registries, log on and report the theft. When you report your bicycle as stolen, bike shop owners, authorities, and even other riders can look up your serial number online.

Chances are that whoever stole your bicycle will try to sell it to another buyer or a shop for cash. Many riders know to look up a used bike’s serial number before purchasing it to ensure they aren’t buying something that’s stolen. Bike shops will oftentimes do the same.

Talk to your campus police. Campus police are likely familiar with how common bicycle thefts are and have experience recovering them. Describe your bicycle’s appearance and give them as many details as possible so they can identify your bike should they come across it.

They may be able to give you some tips for recovering it. For example, campus police may know where your bicycle is most likely to turn up: at a specific pawn shop, a local bike shop, or even lesser known online marketplaces specific to your college.

If you insured your bicycle, file a claim. We’ll get to the importance of insuring your bicycle in the first place a little later. But in the meantime, if you have insured your bike, it’s time to file a claim and contact the police for a report.

Be sure to report as many details as possible including your bicycle’s appearance, the type of lock you used, and the date and time you suspect it was stolen.

Your bicycle insurance provider usually has instructions on how to submit a claim and recoup some or all of the stolen bike’s value.

Use Resources Available To You As A College Student To Prevent Bicycle Theft

Unfortunately, we cyclists have to jump through hoops to ensure our bikes aren’t stolen in the first place. We invest in indestructible locks, store our bikes inside even when it’s inconvenient, and carry around tires on our backs.

It’s a pain in the you-know-what sometimes. But it’s certainly worth all the rides and adventures.

The good news is that if you’re a college student, you may have access to even more bicycle theft prevention methods.

Many colleges have free bicycle registry programs (in addition to the national registries online – which are also free) dedicated to on-campus theft. Simply register your bicycle the same way you would online. In case your bike is stolen, alert your campus police and they’ll have instant access to your serial number, make, model, and general description.

Talk to your campus police or transportation department to see if there’s a bicycle storage program. Some colleges are investing in indoor storage rooms dedicated to bicycle security, complete with around-the-clock campus security guards.

Use the dedicated bicycle racks. Most college campuses have bicycle racks specifically for students to lock their bikes up in a high-traffic, well-lit area. Check with your school’s transportation department for a list of bicycle rack locations to ensure you aren’t locking your bike to something that could earn you a ticket.

Increasing Your Chances Of Recovering A Stolen Bicycle

None of us wake up in the morning wishing we had the chance to try and recover our stolen bike. It’s a challenge and it can be labor-intensive. But it’s also worth it.

Nearly half of all stolen bikes are recovered by the police. However, sadly, only about 5% of those recovered bicycles make their way back to their rightful owner because the serial number wasn’t registered.

Registering your bike with the campus police or transportation department, and online with several free bicycle registries, greatly impacts your chances of recovering it if it’s ever stolen. The magical trick is registering it before someone steals it (i.e. before it’s too late).

We’ve put together a handy-dandy guide to registering your bike and locating your bicycle serial number. Check it out. It’ll take less than five minutes.

You’ve registered your bicycle online and on campus. Excellent! Now it’s time to insure it because, as you know, college students are at risk for bike theft.

Should your bike go missing and never be recovered, bicycle insurance can reimburse you at full-value and possibly even cover a rental ride in the meantime. Plus, it’s super easy to make a claim and it’s more affordable than you think.

Keeping updated documentation about your bicycle also comes in handy when it’s time to try and recover it. Hang on to service receipts, invoices, pictures, and copies of anything with your serial number on it. You can use these to help police investigate your case. Plus, they’ll know who to contact if and when it turns up.

Now let’s say you’re both registered and insured, and your bicycle is stolen. Is there anything else you as a college student can do to recover it?

Drum roll, please.

Always. Report. A. Stolen. Bike. This is the first step to getting your bicycle back regardless of which route you choose to take. Tell your friends, tell other cycling enthusiasts, and tell:

  • Your campus security guards
  • The city or state police
  • Online registries
  • Your bicycle insurance provider
  • Any kind person who is willing to lend a listening ear and help you get through this trying time

If you don’t report your bicycle as stolen, your chances of recovering it just decreased by a lot (we’re talkin’ a-lotta-lot).

When you report a theft you’re not only helping yourself, but you’re also helping other riders and classmates. Campuses may be more likely to invest in bicycle theft prevention if they have accurate data. By reporting your incident, you’re letting your school know it’s a problem.

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