By Natalia Monzocco
Charles Tilden knows he will likely never see his bicycle again.
One day last November, the third-year urban planning student wheeled his “really nice road bike” to the City of Toronto bike lock outside the former business building on Victoria Street.
When his two-hour lecture was over, Tilden, a third-year urban planning student, returned outside — in broad daylight — to find that the lock had been smashed.
The bike was nowhere to be found.
“I’ve actually had a few bikes stolen in Toronto,” says Tilden, who has many friends who attend school downtown with similar stolen bike stories.
Ryerson experiences comparatively fewer bicycle thefts than U of T’s larger St. George campus does. Ryerson security supervisor Chris Beninger says the number of stolen bikes fluctuates anywhere from zero to ten bicycles a month. U of T, meanwhile, averages “two to four thefts per week every calendar year”, said U of T police coporal Peter Franchi.
After acknowledging bicycle theft as a chronic problem plaguing the downtown core, University of Toronto campus police introduced programs that have student cyclists breathing a little easier.
Last fall, U of T introduced the Bike Bait program, which plants expensive-looking bikes equipped with a GPS tracking device around campus. The Bait program, which mirrors earlier programs implemented by police in Victoria B.C., has led to a marked decrease in theft, according to Franchi. “For a while, there was only one theft reported every week or every two weeks.”
But Beninger says that bicycle theft is a big enough problem on the Rye campus to implement anti-theft measures of its own. Ryerson’s security force is examining a number of anti-theft precautions, including a locker system for bicycles. “What I’m trying to do is put in a bike cage, or a certain area for lockdown, so that individuals who choose to have a little better security would have that option.”
The cages would cost students five to ten dollars a month to rent out, and would likely be opened and shut via a pass-card. Although the lockers are a sturdy — and aesthetically pleasing — option, Beninger says, “they’re quite large and take up a lot of space and the price is just astronomical.”
In the works at U of T, is a revised version of the school’s hugely successful STOP anti-laptop theft program, modified for use on bicycles. For $20, U of T students can register their laptops with the campus police. A plate carrying a bar code is then applied to the laptop; the plate takes 800 pounds of pressure to remove, and underneath it is a permanent “tattoo” that identifies the piece as stolen property.
“Laptop theft was a huge problem at U of T,” says Franchi. “Since June we’ve had maybe 2,600 pieces of equipment registered, and we have not had one tagged item stolen yet.”
Carlene Thatcher-Martin, who runs the U of T student cycling care centre Bikechain, says that the STOP program may be a more sensible solution for laptops than bicycles. “The problem is with bikes that they get taken apart when they’re stolen. Laptops you need to keep intact, but the frame on a bike is the most worthless part.”
Beninger also says Ryerson is considering adopting an anti-laptop theft program similar to that used by Uof T. “Ideally, I’d like to go for the lowest cost that I can providing the most amount of security possible for people who go to Ryerson.”