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So you've stolen a rack of bikes: thoughts on campus vandalism

(photo/Elizabeth Wildenhaus)

Some bike owners have learned to take their seats with them rather than risk theft.

(photo/Elizabeth Wildenhaus)

How bizarre it must seem to visitors— bikes in trees, in ponds, on roofs; entire racks of bikes missing seats. In recent gossip, an entire bike rack (with bikes attached) was allegedly stolen.  Bicycle-related shenanigans plague the ONU dormitories. 

I myself am a victim of bicycle vandalism.  My bike has been damaged by strangers on two separate occasions. Its brake lines have been taken out and its rear wheel has been unbolted.  These instances may be subtle, even insidious, compared to the average bike-in-tree prank.  Still, I think that the vast majority of bike vandals have a lot in common. 

For one, the vandals don’t profit from their activities.  There probably isn’t a guy selling dozens of used bicycle seats.  So, there must be other reasons why these pranks are happening.

Maturity levels probably have a lot to do with it.  The freshman dorms suffer from all forms of vandalism, theft, and general fire-alarm-pulling, exit-sign-smashing stunts.  Doing a juvenile thing like messing around with other people’s bikes is within the range of typical freshman behaviors.

Revenge and group rivalries are also likely a large issue.  The first time my bike was vandalized, I had chained it to a lamppost along the Greek Circle.  It was a stupid freshman mistake.  When I retrieved my bike two days later, the brake lines were pulled out. 

Whoever broke the brakes probably thought it was funny.  They might have imagined me crashing into a tree, unable to stop.  But it didn’t work that way.  It’s pretty easy to tell when the brakes aren’t present in a vehicle of any sort.  It’s just like taking the brakes out of a car.  When you press the brake and the pedal’s already flat on the floor, you know something’s wrong. 

So, no one got a good laugh out of that one.  Even if the vandals do find their activities funny, they’re surely the only ones.  I can’t imagine the folks without bicycle seats being very happy about it.

But even the bicycle seat thefts look petty compared to the recent disappearance of the bike rack.  There’s been a lot of buzz over this theft because it’s huge, unprecedented. 

Sure, individual bikes are stolen all the time.  However, it’s never been done on so large a scale, nor been treated like a prank before.  Because bikes aren’t cheap; they cost hundreds of dollars. 

I’m sure whoever pulled off that stunt thinks it’s hilarious, epic, a feat of ingenuity.  But how is it worth stealing hundreds, even thousands of dollars from college students? 

Maybe that says something about Ohio Northern.  If vandalism and stealing are considered a form of entertainment, then our campus must be really, really boring.  

For the sake of all cyclists, I hope these bored vandals transfer to a more exciting college.  I hear Ohio University is nice.  

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