I lost my bike, I used my network and benefitted from this amazing community. I found my bike, and I learned some things. That’s what this post is about.
There is hardly anything I enjoy more than using a bicycle as my primary vehicle. It is the most practical way to get from my home in Goleta to my job at UCSB, it keeps my family’s ecological footprint a little smaller, and it saves us a lot of money.
When I emerged from my office after working late one recent Tuesday, my happy bicycle commuting world took a tumble. My bicycle was not where I had parked it. Ouch! This is the first locked bicycle I have ever lost between 1982 and the present.
I went back up to my office, dashed off a “please find my bike” status note on Facebook, and used my folding bike for the ride home. Once at home, I posted lost-bike notes on Craigslist and Reddit, and I sent a picture of my bike to Corporal Matthew Stern of the UCSB Police Department. Corporal Stern is not only representative of our fine police force, he is also mildly obsessed with bicycle safety, theft, and a good experience for those using any and all modes of transportation on campus.
Earlier on this same day, I had sent Matt this article comparing nearly every make and model of bicycle lock. Part of me thought that Stern was working late and playing a trick on me for using the least secure lock for my cargo bicycle.
As the hours elapsed, my certainty grew that my beloved cargo bicycle was gone. I starting thinking about what lessons I ought to take away from this experience. This was the first bicycle I had lost in more than 20 years. So it was time for UCSB’s First-Year Dean to go back to school on the essentials of bicycle security on campus.
Lesson one: Register your bike. My family has a lot of bikes and I was behind on getting them all registered. A registered bike has a better chance of being recovered. It is also still the law that all bicycles on our campus must be registered. Since I changed the frame on my cargo bicycle, I had not had the new frame registered. I was ashamed to share this with my friends in the UCSB Police Department. You can bet that when I collect my bike this week, it will be registered. After our fall startup of registrations, students can go to the Police Department’s Community Service Organization headquarters and get their bikes registered for just $10. While we are in the Week of Welcome, you’ll find CSOs at locations all around campus registering bikes.
Lesson Two: U is for University and also for U-Lock. The article that I sent to Corporal Stern covers, among other things, how stupid it is to use a cable lock. The author points to a study from another bicycle Mecca, Minneapolis, finding that 90% of bicycles stolen were locked with cable and not U-locks. Mine was locked with a combination cable lock. I have now ordered one of these locks.
Lesson Three: Friends and family are amazing. I am grateful to have a caring network. As word got out about the missing bike, I received an amazing amount of support from friends and family. My sister gave me insurance tips; my mother worried for me; my friend, Steve, sent me an admonishment about using a poor lock; and a lot of friends offered to help catch the thief. A fellow student affairs professional even created and posted a Find Don’s Bike bulletin to her social network. My fellow members in the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition also expressed support and provided ideas. Eventually, two of my friends recovered my bike.
Lesson Four: Keep faith in strangers. An MTD driver saw my Craigslist post and the picture of my bike. He remembered seeing the bike while driving on his route. He sent me a response with a phone number. I waited to call until I contacted Corporal Stern. The call turned out to be authentic and Nick shared the location that resolved the case. I have witnessed MTD drivers doing many kind things while at the wheel. The fact that Nick took time to contact me after his shift is incredible and far beyond the expected job description of a driver.
Lesson Five: The UCSB Police Department provides a great service to our campus. Even with what I consider their much more important priorities of preventing assaults and other unsafe behaviors, our department makes time to attend to the needs of cyclists. I appreciate when I see our officers using bicycles instead of Crown Victorias as they do their important work. I am happy to see them issuing warnings and citations to sidewalk riders and those who ignore stoplights. The Community Service Organization, a branch of our department, does great work when it comes to bicycle safety. Their supervisor posted a photo of my eccentric bike and challenged them to find it.
Happy ending! When we got a tip about the location of the bike, Stern drove his police cruiser over to the spot and recovered it. While he was there, Ignacio Gallardo, a friend and co-worker who had also spotted the bike, stopped to recover it. Two of my friends finding the family bike at the same time – what a wonderful coincidence. My admiration for my friends, UCSB professionals, and the goodness of strangers has been renewed and secured in my heart – this time with a sturdier U-Lock.
Editor's note: Dr. Don Lubach is Associate Dean of Students and Director of First-Year and Graduate Initiatives.