Your parents had some sage advice as they were climbing into the car before heading off to leave you to your own devices: carry extra cash for a cab, never talk to strangers, and make friends with the smartest kid in class but don’t sleep with the smartest kid in class.
They probably didn’t tell you that you will get your bike stolen. Don’t blame them — your parents come from suburbia, where bikes live in a garage where they’re (usually) safe and (routinely) hidden behind things that get a little more use, like Christmas decorations or your father’s stash of Playboys.
You will, in fact, likely lose your bike within the next four years. Last year, the City of Charleston Police Department had nearly 1,000 reported bike thefts, and nearly all of them were downtown.
Here’s some advice to help you prove us wrong:
• Theft of convenience. The average apartment doesn’t have a lot of space for a bike, but if you don’t have a safe place to put it outside overnight, either sleep on it or hang it over your desk. Leaving the bike on a dark stoop or unprotected bike rack provides a thief with ample time to snag your ride.
• Nobody likes a challenge. Economics 101 is a fine course, but the first lesson in finance will come when you need to find cheap deals to shore up the beer fund. Your bike lock should not be one of those cheap deals. Just about any lock can be compromised, but the first question thieves ask themselves is how long it will take. The longer it takes, the more likely they’ll move on and find an easier target. And your bike lock doesn’t have to work alone. Two locks work better than one to deter a thief.
• Small is better. Your big, fat bike lock doesn’t look intimidating, it looks like a target. Bulky locks provide an opportunity for thieves because it gives them more room to play with, helping them get their job done quicker and with less potential harm to the bike.
• Protect what needs protecting. Bike thieves are value shoppers. Bike owners will often make their first mistake by securing the front tire to the bike rack. Sure, that tire is valuable to the thief who wants to ride off with your bike. But if he’s willing to just walk off with it, the front tire is the most expendable part. It’s always best to secure as much of the bike as possible, but the rear tire and the frame should be the priority.
• Register early and often. Registering your bike with the city is likely the only way you’ll ever get it back if it’s stolen. And you can register your bike at the college’s public safety office on St. Philip Street. Just this week, the city was expected to finalize plans to waive the $1 fee, but registration will only be good for three years. There are also national registration programs that could help if you lose your bike.
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