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Bikes — lock ’em or lose ’em

Bike theft has been a perennial problem at MVNU since before our time here. I once fell victim to the epidemic myself. My bike was stolen — or rather, “borrowed,” during my sophomore year; I later found Jake Dickerson riding it. For obvious reasons, I did not confront him at the time, but found it lying around later and locked it up.

This bike tradition, if you aren’t familiar with it, encourages students to borrow unlocked bikes for a quick ride to class. The tradition goes back a ways, says former student Luke Shomo, a member of the so-called

“Cedar Bike Gang” during his days here.

“I’m confident that the bike gang lifestyle started well before my time, but our peak came to fruition in 2011,” Shomo said. “We never set out to ‘steal’ bikes, but use them as a sort of public transportation system, so to speak.

“It was an unwritten rule,” Shomo said, “if you didn’t put a lock on your bike, that bike was fair game.”

This borrowing system continues — and is almost a sport to some.

“Sport is a loose word,” Shomo said. “Was it a competition? Sure. Did we set out to find the best bikes there were? Sure. But there was no point system. It was a game of honor and triumph.”

Shomo explains: “If Jimmy Oakwood’s dad bought him a fancy bright red Schwinn, then Jimmy Oakwood’s dad should have bought him a fancy bike lock. Sure the local Walmart special would get you from Jetter to Redwood. But Jimmy Oakwood’s unlocked fancy new Schwinn would get you there in style.”

The gang “viewed it as a chance for Jimmy to learn how the world works,” Shomo said. “You don’t see a CEO park his Benz on Fifth Avenue with the windows down and the keys in the ignition. He locks it up because he knows that’s how the world works.”

And, “In an ideal world, Jimmy wouldn’t go crying to Travis Keller, he would recognize his lack of awareness and go find his bike and lock it up like any civilized person should do.”

These days, according to an email sent to students last fall by Dean of Students Rick Engstrom, borrowed bikes are considered stolen property and the “borrowers” will be held responsible. But when it all started, Shomo said, “we never got in trouble; we were too good at our jobs.”

Regardless of how you feel about this MVNU public transportation option, the solution is easy and both sides agree on it. Buy a lock, lock up your bike and you won’t have any problems.

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