Two Years, Two Bikes

In my almost two years as an undergraduate at this school, I have had two bikes stolen from me on campus. After a lockless overnight stay outside of the Red Door third term frosh year, my beloved green Schwinn, that transported me to and from school for over 4 years, had disappeared from my life. Ok, lesson learned. I was immediately on the market for a new bike. 

Two weeks later I had acquired a retro blue Schwinn hybrid. During my 2022 Copenhagen summer, my affinity for cycling only grew. Upon my return to the states for my s’more fall term, I was fortunate to have inherited a Specialized Crossroads retro road bike from a departing neighbor back home. 

Now this bike I loved more than any bike I had had before. As a good student, I purchased a hefty U-lock and registered the bike with Caltech security. During the 8 months I rode this bike to and from Einstein’s every morning, around campus, and across the greater Pasadena area, this love only grew. 

After I got rear-ended two days before the new year, leaving me without my car for 3 months, it was this bike that I rode to and from San Gabriel Valley airport to maintain my piloting skills. Never was this bike left without a lock, and never was it left outside of the Lloyd courtyard for an overnight stay. With this, I felt reasonably secure in the idea that I was going to keep this bike for a long time. 

Which is why I was undoubtedly cast into a foul mood when four weeks ago today, I walked out into the Lloyd courtyard to find that my bike, had again, vanished. Two years, two bikes, and one sad Lloydie. 

It is not unknown to bike owners on campus that bike theft runs rampant. Chase Blachette (EE ‘23, Venerable) reports that his bike was stolen outside of Moore after just 20 minutes locked and unattended. 

Alexander Koutsoukos (GPS ‘24, Venerable) had his unlocked bike stolen outside of Arms late April this year, after staying inside the building for longer than anticipated. Koutsoukos further claims that several professors he knows have also had their bikes stolen. 

Sascha Goldsmith (ME 25’, Blacker) had her electric scooter stolen outside of Gates-Thomas while she was attending an evening office hours session. According to Goldsmith, fellow mole Adam Křivka (CS 24’, Blacker) also had his bike stolen. 

Ethan Lin (Ch 26’, Dabney) left his bike locked at the racks between SFL and Dabney Gardens over one weekend last term. When he returned, all he found was his lock, which had been cut. “The bike was around 500-600 dollars,” he told the Tech. “I had it for around 8 years and was really into mountain biking so it was my most precious possession in terms of personal significance.”

A thief cut clean through the bike lock that once secured Lin’s bike.

In all cases, the bike or scooter was registered with Caltech Security. Despite this seeming safeguard and hope for reunion that registering one’s bike with Caltech Security offers, it remains unclear what action can be taken by security when a theft has occurred.

“I contacted campus security immediately and they consoled me, but they said there are no security cameras in that location,” Lin lamented. “I filed a report with the Pasadena Police Department too, but I didn’t really expect anything, and nothing came of it.” Goldsmith described a similar experience.

The most frightening recurring theme of stolen bike vignettes is that of bike thieves entering undergraduate dorm courtyards. Blanchette claims to have witnessed an adult male waiting to follow individuals into the Venerable courtyard. The door closes slowly enough that a student who unlocked it could be already inside the building before it fully shuts, making it possible for a piggybacker to sneak in unnoticed. According to Blanchette, he encountered the suspect at night a month and a half ago inside the Venerable courtyard, where the individual was browsing the available bikes. 

It is clear that bike and scooter theft on the Caltech campus is an issue that affects undergraduate to faculty bike owners. Given that an overwhelming majority of undergraduate students live on campus, the issue of bike theft from within student dormitories raises the concern of the ease with which an individual from the general public can enter the premises.