Published: Oct. 19, 2021

Editor's note: In the Oct. 21 faculty-staff emailed edition of CU Boulder Today, the newsletter erroneously included a 2019 article about the bait bike program. Below is a 2021 article about the program––the intended content. We regret the error.

Boulder is a premier cycling destination, but unfortunately, it’s also an attractive spot for bike thieves, campus included. Each academic year, hundreds of bikes are reported stolen––and these are just the ones police know about; many bike thefts go unreported. 

In pre-COVID-19 times, the total estimated value of bikes stolen on campus was close to $300,000 (2018). That year, University of Colorado Boulder Police (CUPD) took in 354 reports of stolen bikes and recovered just 19. 

They’re working hard not only to reduce the incidence of bike theft on campus but also to increase the recovery and return rate of stolen bikes. “Registration, registration, registration,” CUPD Commander Tom Matlock stressed in a recent Radio 1190 interview. “We need proof it’s your bike in order to return it.” 

CUPD commanders Tom Matlock and Bill Webb help students register bikes and learn about theft prevention at 2021 CU Bike Fest

CUPD commanders Tom Matlock and Bill Webb help students register bikes and learn about theft prevention at the 2021 CU Bike Fest.

Students attend CU Bike Fest, Aug. 31, 2021

2021 CU Bike Fest

Bait Bike program

Matlock also mentioned the return of CUPD’s Bait Bike program, which took a short pause during the pandemic, when far fewer students were on campus. Police scatter an undisclosed number of bikes around campus then use tracking devices to catch would-be thieves.

“It's kind of like ‘find my phone,’” said Matlock. “When these bikes get moved, we get alerted. Then we respond with the appropriate action.” He noted if a person is caught trying to steal a bike while in possession of burglary tools, like lock cutters, they’re facing a felony arrest.

Tips to protect your bike

CUPD’s top three tips to protect your bike and reduce the risk of it being stolen?

  • Register your bike.
  • Lock it up with a U-lock instead of a more flimsy, cable lock.
  • Leave those pricier, flashier bikes at home.

“Bike thieves are very good at what they do,” said Matlock. “We want our students, faculty and staff to be able to keep their property.”

Registering your bike can be done at any time throughout the year, although the big push is at the start of fall semester, when CU Boulder holds its annual Bike Fest. The festival is also home to a used bike auction, where non-registered recovered bikes are sold. New this fall: a bike giveaway to benefit low-income students. 

Bike registration is easy, online and places your bike into a national database, Bike Index. Once your bike is registered (you’ll need a serial number), you can pick up a sticker to link your registration to your bike, then place the sticker on your bike. If you move, your national registration goes with you.

While you’re registering your bike, remember to swap out your cable lock for a stronger U-lock at no charge. The CU Environmental Center, CUPD and local bike lock manufacturer Rocky Mounts partnered in this program to help reduce theft after calculating that nearly 96% of bikes stolen on campus were either unlocked or locked using cable locks. Lock swaps can be made at either CU Boulder bike station.

As always, police rely on campus partners to help be their eyes and ears. Although campus police operate 24/7, they can’t be everywhere at once. “If you see suspicious activity near a bike rack, let us know,” said Matlock, adding that witnesses to theft should not approach suspects. Suspicious behavior and bike theft should be reported to 303-492-6666 or online.

Despite a bit of extra effort to keep your wheels safe, Matlock encourages students, faculty and staff to keep biking. “I’m an avid cyclist myself,” he said. “There’s no better place to bike than Boulder. Get out there and pedal.”