Guest comment: Police and cyclists need help on bike thefts

Oak Bay News welcomes letters to the editor@oakbaynews.com

After investigating a rash of bike thefts at Oak Bay High, our municipal police conducted a bait bike sting, made one arrest, and launched a bike registry. In addition, senior officers are making strong suggestions to students, staff, and patrons at Oak Bay High to:

Lock your bike and both wheels to an immovable object which cannot be easily cut or broken.

Lock your bike in a highly visible location.

Unfortunately, almost 50 per cent of the students, staff and patrons who cycle to Oak Bay High School can’t easily follow these two critical suggestions. Typically, on a busy day in late morning, about 170 bikes are parked at this facility. The only public bike shelter handles a maximum of about 80 to 85 bikes. Yes, this single shelter does satisfy all the police suggestions: a convenient location with lots of pedestrian traffic, highly visible from the school library, and providing secure locking to immovable objects.

But what happens to the remaining 70 to 80 cyclists? Unfortunately, they have little choice but to leave their bikes locked to flimsy fences – easily cut – and in remote locations – largely unwatched.

Why so many people looking for bike parking? Opened in September 2015, the new school enrolls about 1,150 students in grades 9 through 12, and also offers numerous programs for the wider population. The impressive new facility operates public courses via the Neighbourhood Learning Centre, runs the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre, has a public use playing field, and provides families with day time child care, and after school care. These successful programs attract lots of energetic people – many of whom ride bikes.

Can bike parking be improved – so that patrons, students and staff are not so vulnerable to theft?

Yes – there are both immediate and longer term solutions. A quick fix is installing the six bike racks that are locked away behind the school. These are well-designed, heavy duty racks that would accommodate another 45 or 50 bicycles. A second longer term solution is better placement of existing racks. Don’t put bike parking in remote locations far away from obvious destinations, with little visibility, and few by-passers. One example is a bike rack on the south side of the playing fields on a lonely walkway – with no gate nearby to the fields.

At the same time, put bike racks where people want to go. For example, the main entrance to the NLC has no bike racks in sight, but lots of room on a wide walkway.

I ask the Oak Bay Parks and Recreation Commission, as co-managers with School District 61, and as lead tenant at the NLC to take these positive steps to reduce bike thefts. Certainly, parents, students and the energetic patrons would support longer term solutions. No one wants a stolen bike.

Gerald Smeltzer served on the Oak Bay Active Transportation Advisory Committee (2011 – 2014) and is a director on the Greater Victoria Cycling Coaltion.

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