The implications of bike stealing

Photo courtesy of Sewanee Flickr
Photo courtesy of Sewanee Flickr

by Lam Ho

Executive Staff

Last year, after leaving my bike outside of McClurg for an afternoon (locked, I would like to include), I was distraught to return to an empty post where my Diamondback had been. Later that day, after about thirty minutes of searching campus, I discovered it in front of Hunter Hall with the seat raised and twisted to the right, adjusted by a taller person, and the lock un-done. The National Bike Registry says, “Given the increasing incidence of theft, a four year student cyclist has a 17.75% chance of losing their bicycle. By taking the possible unreported thefts into account, a four year student bicyclist faces a 53% (1 in 2) chance of losing their bike to theft.”

Bikes for a college student are a major time-saver. A five-minute walk from McClurg to the library turns into a one-minute bike ride. Time management becomes much simpler, not to mention the fact that bikes provide a major hobby on the Plateau: mountain-biking. On top of being time-savers and trail companions, they are also expensive and, according to statistics, likely to be stolen. Yet in Sewanee a curiously low number of cases is reported. David Prehn (C’16), Chair of the Honor Council, says, “There have only been two cases of bike-stealing reported to the Honor Council in the past three years… In both cases, there was someone who was caught in the act of stealing a bike and reported to the Honor Council.” Even if the numbers don’t reflect it, bike-stealing is a serious matter on campus. Why can’t the Sewanee com-munity fix that problem? Are we going to fingerprint the bikes to discover who the thieves are? How do we fish all the lost bikes out of Lake Trez? How can we keep watch on a Friday night for the drunks who take bikes back to their own dorms and dump them on the floor?

Too often, some-one will post a notice about their stolen bike on a Sewanee Facebook page. Each day, we see abandoned bikes, but we seem to have be-come accustomed to their presence. I’d like to think that some owners set their bikes haphazardly on their dorm lawns, but another part of me doubts that. These toppled-over bikes probably haven’t been seen by their owners for more than a couple of days. And they remain unreported, neglected, and unfound.

Prehn says, “It’s hard to figure out who has done the stealing. We don’t always know which bike belongs to each person. But I can say that the Honor Council treats bike theft very seriously, and if an individual is found guilty, he or she can receive 20-60 community service hours or Honor Council probation. In more se-vere cases, automatic suspension is very possible. There are certainly layers of dishonesty that we have to take into ac-count.”

Here are some possible solutions:

1) Let’s start paying attention to the stolen bikes. If you see a bike that has been in the same place for a few days, post a picture of it on your Sewanee class page. Who knows? Maybe the owner’s been looking for it.

2) If you see a sketchy individual spending a suspicious amount of time with a bike lock outside of the library, consider the possibility of intervening and asking this person if the bike belongs to him or her.

3) If you see someone riding a bike that you know does not belong to that person, speak up. Don’t be afraid to talk to the Honor Council if you know something is wrong. Hopefully Sewanee’s Honor Code comes to mind, for the day when we all signed the Honor Code as freshmen is meant to be relevant every day of our college careers – and, ideally, for the rest of our lives. It applies to laptops left in the library, cell phones left in common rooms, and key cards found on the ground after a party weekend. If we apply that same mentality of honor to each of our interactions, big or small, bike-stealing may become less of a casual theft and more of a matter to be mentioned, recognized, and brought to justice.