Thursday, April 15, 2021

Dude, where's my bike?

Students, officials report bike overcrowding, thefts on- and off-campus

September 19, 2011
Photo by Keenan Cronyn | The State News

The morning of Sept. 12, Michelle Cusick walked out of her dorm in Mayo Hall to make her way to class.

As Cusick approached the bike racks, she found her bike was gone with “no evidence that it was ever there.”

“It was (locked with) a cable lock, but it was a thick cable lock,” she said.

“In other words, to cut it someone would have needed a very big pair of cable cutters. I don’t know why someone would have put forth that much effort to steal it because it really is not that nice of a bike.”

Cusick, an apparel and textile design junior, is part of a growing number of students who have fallen victim to bicycle theft, a trend that has been evident during the past several weeks.

Since the beginning of the semester, the MSU Police Department has taken 56 bike larceny reports, MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said.

McGlothian-Taylor could not comment on how this compared to years past, but she said a high number of larcenies usually occur during the early weeks of the school year.

But Cusick has noticed a difference.

“I’ve had (my bike) up at school for two years, and I’ve never had any problems with it before now,” she said.

A growing population
MSU Bikes Service Center Manager Tim Potter said he has seen a large increase in the population of bikes on campus during the past several years — a change the university is forced to deal with.

Potter estimates only 30-40 percent of students with bikes register them with MSU, and with more than 7,500 registered bikes in 2010, he extrapolated an actual bike population of close to 20,000.

During the past few weeks, Potter said he has noticed crowding, particularly near residence halls where many of the buildings still make use of the older, “toaster” style racks as opposed to the newer, “inverted loop” racks.

The university has made the switch to the inverted loop racks near most of the academic buildings during the past several years, but many of the residence halls have not updated from the toaster style racks, which are harder for student to get their bikes on and off of, Potter said.

“You look around, and you see a lot of overcrowding on the racks and fewer places to lock your bike,” he said.

One of the problems cyclists have run into on campus is finding places to secure their bikes as many bike racks — particularly those near residence halls — are often full, causing students to look for alternative measures for locking their bikes and therefore leaving them more susceptible to theft or impoundment.

During the first three weeks of the semester, more than 30 bikes have been impounded by the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety, or DPPS, Lynnette Forman, manager of parking operations for MSU Police said.

But this number is not out of the ordinary, she said. In 2010, 1,492 bikes were impounded by DPPS, and that number has stayed relatively consistent with an average of more than 1,370 impounded bikes per year since 2003, even though the registered bike total has more than doubled in that time.

Most of the impounded bikes are those left abandoned at the end of the year or unregistered bikes left out on campus, but others are impounded because they are locked illegally to fences, street signs and sometimes other bikes, Forman said.

If a student with a registered bike has another bike locked to it, they can call DPPS to have the lock removed and the other bike impounded.

Locked down to impound
If a bike is reported stolen, there is not much the police can do if the bike is not registered — something many freshmen don’t do right away upon their arrival on campus, McGlothian-Taylor said.

If a bike is brought into the bike impound, the DPPS will release the bike to the registered owner. If it is not registered, the owner must provide proof of ownership, such as a purchase receipt or serial number, otherwise the bike cannot be released.

Bikes brought into impound are held for a minimum of 30 days, Forman said.

After the 30-day holding period, the impounded bikes can be given to the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center to be sold or rented to other students, Forman said.

Marketing and sales assistant James Ives said the Surplus Store has picked up close to 1,000 bikes from DPPS since July with recent pick-ups of 400 and 500.

The amount of bikes available to the Surplus Store and when pick-ups can be made are at the discretion of DPPS, Ives said.

According to a week-long poll run by The State News on Facebook, out of the 180 respondents, 46 percent said they had their bike stolen on campus, 44 percent knew someone who had their bike stolen and 10 percent did not know of anyone who has had their bike stolen.

Cusick’s roommate, psychology junior Hannah Smith, also had her bike stolen.

Although Smith’s bike was registered, she said she didn’t have much hope her bike would be found after it was taken during move-in. But she went to the MSU Police Department to see if it had been impounded and was encouraged to fill out a police report.

“They said my best bet was to see if it was on Craigslist or if it was locked somewhere else on campus,” she said.

Seeking a solution
Parking difficulties and theft have not been restricted to the area south of Grand River Avenue.
The remainder of East Lansing also has seen an increase in cyclists, and in turn, they are looking for new ways to deal with them.

East Lansing also has seen a number of cyclists using makeshift methods of locking their bikes, making use of fences and street signs, Community Development Analyst Tim Schmidt said.

But the city is taking steps to better accommodate the increasing number of cyclists in the city by making the streets more bike-friendly, Schmidt said.

In August, the city received a grant from the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council for three new bike racks in the city for areas where bicycle parking is in high demand.

The exact location of the three racks has not been determined, but the city has it narrowed down to four locations; Valley Court; in front of The Peanut Barrel, 521 E. Grand River Ave.; the covered ramp near CVS Pharmacy, 240 M.A.C. Ave.; or in the colorful ramp near Division Street, Schmidt said. The bike racks will be installed by the Department of Public Works this year.

“It seems like there are more bikes, and it feels like it’s been climbing for years,” he said.

MSU Landscape Services Ground Maintenance Manager Gerry Dobbs said the university is trying to keep up with the constantly growing bike population by making changes, such as adding more inverted loop racks in the heart of campus, but improvements still need to made near the residence halls, particularly those on the east side of campus.

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