Dude, Where’s my Bike?

Bike Thefts in Gunnison

Emma Hustis at one of the many bike racks on Western's campus. Photo by Mandie Little
Emma Hustis at one of the many bike racks on Western’s campus. Photo by Mandie Little

Mandie Little/Staff Writer

There seems to have been a recent increase in the amount of bike thefts in Gunnison and on campus. People are reporting stolen bikes on social media with the use of the Gunnison Marketplace (on Facebook), as well as the anonymous chat spot known as Yik Yak.

Although it would appear that this type of crime is on the rise, it has been a common occurrence in the valley for quite some time. In fact, from 2002 and 2012, reports of theft averaged close to 300 each year (this includes all theft, not just bikes), but in 2013 and 2014 there was a sharp decline in these numbers with the average being only 145 reported thefts. Although theft is actually on the decline, it is still a serious issue for student, and residents of the valley whose property has been unlawfully taken.

For those who have not been a victim of bike theft, it is easier to invalidate the victim because it happens so often that there is almost a sentiment of “you should have known better.”  Often times the theft of a bicycle is referred to as “borrowing,” because it is such a common occurrence.  Many of the post that appear on social media concerning stolen bikes are surprisingly calm. “Someone ‘borrowed’ our shop bike about a week ago and it hasn’t reappeared. Please return it … You can leave it at the bike rack in front of the shop. Thank you!!!”

Many of the locals in Crested Butte and Gunnison have grown used to bikes being taken and later turning up in a random yard or other location. Not everyone is so passive about the thefts though, and some have even called for sting operations using “bait bikes.” One resident went as far as saying, “Bait bikes with poison ivy all over them, or something really painful.”

Whenever a bike is taken and the owner posts on social media, blame is quickly pointed back to the owner with comments like, “Well, if you had locked your bike it wouldn’t have been stolen.” Then comes the inevitable response that the bike had been locked, and the lock was cut. Suddenly the audience of this post is on the side of the victim, who they previously viewed as being careless and deserving of having their bike taken. So what is one to do if they have taken the proper precautions of locking up, but they are still fearful being victimized? Bike owners in the valley and on Western’s campus are often unaware of an additional step that they should be taking. Registering their bike with the Gunnison Police Department is free and although it cannot prevent the bike from being taken in the first place, it can help by getting that bike back to its owner, when found.

This information can be found at their website, cityofgunnison-co.gov/police/. You can come to the police department with your bicycle and obtain a registration free of charge. Calling ahead to see if someone is available may reduce your wait time.

Here are a few tips to prevent a bike from being taken: whenever possible, bring your bike inside with you. This may not be an option during classes, but it is at the dorms or at an apartment. Reducing the amount of time your bike is outside and exposed will reduce the risk of it being taken. If you don’t have a lock, get a lock. Don’t buy just any lock though. Your bike is an investment and the lock that protects it should be as well. There are many locks on the market that cannot be cut. These do cost a little more money, but replacing a bike costs even more.

Ultimately, the safety of a bike lays in the hands of its owner. Taking proper precautions can save the time, money, and the unwanted hassle that comes when a bike is stolen.