A row of bikes rests on bike racks outside of Lillis Hall at the University of Oregon on the morning of October 7, 2021. Bike thefts in Eugene, Oregon, are a pervasive and signifigant issue affecting the community. (Will Geschke/Emerald)

University of Oregon students roam the campus once more, and the bike racks are filling up. With the influx of new bikers on the road, law enforcement officials and other community members recommend locking up bikes carefully and using a bike registry to prevent theft. 

Freshman Hannah Tran brought her bike to Eugene. Tran said that she feels safe leaving her bike on campus because the bike racks are pretty full most of the time. While Tran said she feels her bike is safe on campus, she uses a combination of a u-lock and cable lock to secure her bike.

The plethora of students walking around campus provides a deterrent for bike thieves but doesn’t stop them. The University of Oregon Police Department posted a video of a bike thief in action to its Facebook page on Oct. 5.

“He walks up in broad daylight right next to Tykeson Hall with a pair of bolt cutters … and within four seconds he’s cut through the lock, he’s put the bolt cutters away and he rides off with a bicycle,” UOPD Captain Jason Wade said, describing the video.

Wade suggests that people “stay away from cable locks, stay away from the standard chain locks because those can be defeated so quickly.” But even u-locks, which are more durable, can be cut. Wade said that a UOPD evidence technician was able to cut through a standard u-lock in around three seconds with bolt cutters.

While standard u-locks can be cut, Wade said that the way bikers attach the lock makes a difference. “If you can, put the lock specifically around the center post and the back wheel, so there’s no room to move it,” he said. “It’s a little inconvenient for you locking it, but more inconvenient for the thief.”

When students’ bikes are stolen, bike registries can help reunite owners with their bikes. Bike Index is an international bike registry that is split into “chapters” located in different countries.

Steve Piercy, who helps run Bike Index in Eugene, said that bike theft reports increased on Bike Index after the COVID-19 pandemic began and bus lanes started to shut down. “When there has been a transition of more bikes being sold, that means there are more bikes out on the street and that just means there is more opportunity for theft,” he said.

Piercy said all that’s needed to sign up for Bike Index is an email address. “We recommend that they include the serial number of the bike, and as much information about the bike as possible,” Piercy said. “If you don’t provide sufficient information about the bike, it makes it harder to identify it when it’s out in the wild.”

In addition to being familiar with your bike’s information, Piercy said unique features like stickers and scratch marks help make the bike more identifiable.

If your bike is stolen, Piercy said it’s easy to mark it as stolen on Bike Index. “All you have to do is log in, click the button saying, ‘hey, I had my bike stolen,’” he said. “That will send an alert out to anyone following the local Bike Index Twitter feed.”

Piercy said that Bike Index works closely with the Eugene Police Department and has recovered stolen bikes with their collaboration.

UOPD uses another bike registry similar to Bike Index called Project 529 to help with stolen bike recovery. “The UO was an early adopter of the Project 529 bike registration system, becoming part of the coalition about six years ago,” UO spokesperson Saul Hubbard said. Wade said that while bike registration doesn’t guarantee complete prevention of bike theft, it helps UOPD obtain the necessary information to find it.

Hubbard said the main reason that UO doesn’t use Bike Index is cost. “UO would also have to pay an annual subscription to join Bike Index, which would cost more than what we are paying for Project 529,” he said.

In addition to using Project 529, Wade said that UOPD plans to use their social media platforms to notify the UO community of recent bike theft. “We have 20 to 30 people here looking for bikes, but if we can get to 25 to 27,000 people out there to look for a bike or a person — that’s what we want,” he said.

In addition to joining a bike registry, UO offers other amenities for students riding their bikes. “There are a mix of bike cage and bike locker options on campus,” Hubbard said. “One-third of the bike cages and almost all bike lockers are run by transportation services.”

Hubbard said that students can rent bike cages and lockers for $60 and $75 a year respectively, while certain facilities on campus offer their own bike cages at different costs.

Wade said that UOPD works with the City of Eugene to do bait bike programs, where GPS tracking devices are placed on bicycles staged on campus. “We are going to find out where you took the bike to and who you are,” he said. In addition to UO’s programs, Wade said that the UOPD is also working with the street crime and property crime detectives at the EPD.

Wade recommends that students place their bikes in bike cages or visible areas on campus. “That is the best step to protect your own property,” he said.