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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

‘Grand Theft Wheels’: students notice uptick in bike theft on campus

With classes in full swing and students returning to largely in-person class schedules, the pathways through campus that were left largely vacant last year are once again flush with students moving to and from classes, whether by foot or on wheels. While this return to more normal life has been welcomed by students and faculty alike, bike owners on campus have also noted the return of a familiar problem: widespread bike theft.

The increase in on-campus enrollment — roughly 300 more students than in a usual Middlebury year — has brought extra bikes to campus, while the return of in-person classes, athletics and campus life in general has increased the need to get around campus quickly. 

One victim of what some students jokingly refer to as “Grand Theft Wheels” shared a story of his scooter being stolen. 

“I left my scooter in the hall outside of the dining hall around dinner time, and when I came out of the dining hall about an hour later, it was gone,” said Jack Clarner ’24. “My guess is someone needed to get somewhere quick and my scooter did the trick. Definitely saved them some walking or running. They probably fell in love with it after the ride and couldn’t bring themselves to give it back.” 

Some owners of lost bikes have found them shortly after their theft. Carter McPhedran ’24, whose bike had gone missing from the racks outside of Milliken, stumbled across it outside of the Mahaney Arts Center, leaning against a bike rack and completely unscathed. 

“I left it unlocked outside Milliken on a Saturday and then didn’t need to use it again until Monday morning to get to my class,” McPhedran said. “When I went outside to ride it to class it was gone, and I didn’t find it until that Thursday at a random bike rack all the way across campus.” 

Students are supposed to register their bike with Public Safety, but bicycle registration is rarely enforced and not all students report stolen bicycles. 

Complaints of bike theft have also cropped up on MiddConfessions, an instagram account with over 1,700 followers that allows people to post their thoughts about campus life anonymously. While these complaints are no indication of actual rates of bike theft, public awareness of the issue is growing.

Demand for bikes nationally has also accumulated with massive blows to the international bicycle supply chain over the course of the pandemic, causing a sizable bike shortage across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic. Students scrambled for bikes at the annual bike sale held by the Middlebury Bike Shop on campus at the beginning of each semester, but with so few to go around, many were left wanting. 

Josh Rosenstein ’24, who did manage to secure a bike at the sale, said that bikes sold out quickly this year. 

“I showed up 20 minutes early and was able to purchase a bike, and probably 10 minutes later they had already sold out,” Rosenstein said.

Despite the various possibilities of why there has been such a dramatic increase in bicycle theft on campus, there is a general sense among students that the explanation is much simpler. 

“I think people are just lazy this year,” said Alice Ganey ’24.