Bikes come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. All over campus you can see fixies, mountain bikes, cruisers and more. But no matter the value or condition of the bike, nobody wants to get their wheels stolen.
Students might have the option of having additional security for their cycles provided by the university in the near future.
Parking and Transportation working have proposed bringing the Bike Shepherd program to Boise State in hopes of both helping deter potential bike thieves and recover bicycles, but also to help the university manage bikes on campus.
Bike Shepherd works by tagging bikes with sturdy, tamper-proof tags that make it clear to would-be thieves the bike is protected by more than a bike lock. It’s less appetizing for a thief when they know a bike is tracked than a bike that is not.
Students also register their bike’s serial number into the program’s registry giving them another means to find the stolen bike, and the owner can be identified by means of a simple QR code right on the tag.
Normally the tags are offered to the public for $15, but by buying a large number of tags the university may be able to offer students the tags for $10 or possibly cheaper. Not a bad price for a level of protection on your transportation.
But wait, there is more to it. By having tagged bikes which can be scanned to find the owner, the university suddenly has a way to contact students when their bicycle is chained somewhere it shouldn’t be or has been pulverized by a wayward motorcycle.
Stephen Ritter is the mastermind behind bringing Bike Shepherd to campus. He works in bicycle enforcement around campus in addition to his political science studies.
“A lot of the stuff we do, it’s best if we can contact the student, because that allows us to have more options. If we have no options then we’re stuck either cutting their bike lock and removing their bike in certain circumstances, or just leaving little tags that don’t really do a whole lot. So we had that problem, where we were very limited and wanted to open up our options. Bike Shepherd I could find that offered a viable service to the bike community at the same time,” Ritter said.
“With Bike Shepherd and the scan tag, then we have that QR number and we can scan that scan-tag, which is not prone to user error and still be able to their information and contact them and say hey, we had to impound your bike,” he said.
Ritter also noted a bicycle outside the Parking and Transportation office which—along with the rack it was locked to—had been destroyed by a motorcycle accident on Nov. 20. According to Boise Police there had been two bicycles destroyed, but the remaining bike was still locked on the rack. He talked about the lack of a way to contact the owner to inform them of their bike’s predicament.
Ritter also described the challenges the university faces when someone locks their bike on an ADA access ramp. In cases such as this the university has no choice but to remove the bike since any obstruction of an ADA ramp is a federal violation which the school becomes responsible for.
One obstacle facing Bike Shepherd is determining if students would actually buy and use the tags, but at a campus as bike-happy as Boise State, why wouldn’t you offer additional security measures to students? Seems like there is nothing to lose but some money. Ritter spoke about the process of making the pitch to various departments in the university such as Security, Housing and The Associated Students of Boise State University.
“Everybody we’ve talked to so far has been positive towards it. The last thing we want to do is move forward with it and have it be a disaster. Obviously. I don’t want to mar our good bicycle reputation we’re building, at all. Any hurdles we can see and negate beforehand is much better than moving forward relatively blindly and having a bunch of people be like hey we don’t want to do this.” Said Ritter
While bike theft isn’t exactly a rampant problem on campus, it certainly happens. What might not be taken into account is the Bike Shepherd tags would work anywhere, not just campus. And your bike is just as likely to get stolen off campus as on it.
In fact, September this year, Boise was the scene for a high profile bicycle heist when 13 of Team TIBCO’s custom racing bicycles were stolen out of the team’s trailer before the 2012 Exergy Tour. So yeah, your bike can get stolen in this town.
Phil Hobbs, a senior studying Environmental and Occupational Health works at the Cycle Learning Center noted it can be difficult to say how effective the Bike Shepherd program would be generally for the student body.
“It’s not going to be the best for everybody, many bikes here range from medium to pretty nice … it’s hard to quantify, so there are limitations,” Hobbs said.
He noted the large differences in value between some Wal-Mart bike and a high-end racing bike which sometimes make an appearance on campus.
“But overall I’m fully onboard,” Hobbs said.
Although the vast majority of students are not riding such expensive bicycles, many students depend heavily on their wheels to get around campus, town and in many cases to commute to and from work. It saves money they might otherwise spend on gas and parking.
Just because most students are not riding expensive bikes does not mean they won’t feel the pinch if their bike gets pinched. It is also difficult to say if the tags would do anything to deter thieves from stealing parts off bikes that are locked up, such as seats or wheels.
The tags wouldn’t be a replacement for making smart decisions about where you park your bike and locking it up. It would add an extra level of security for students and would at least better the chances or reuniting people with their stolen bicycles.