The Bicycle Thief: Or How to Fear your Neighbors

Living in Boston and not having a bike can mean one of two things. Damn, it’s going to be expensive parking/T Pass is one, and the other is I have to resort to a child’s toy to get to work? I wasn’t much a fan of the bicycle option as it seemed dangerous to share the road with the same people that would run you over on the sidewalk if they could cut ahead in traffic. My fears came true last summer when my then-boyfriend found that kind of person trying to beat the red light. His face met the side door of their car and his bike broke so badly, it never rode again.

But this past semester, after surviving back-to-back classes by sprinting with a full backpack, I decided it was enough. Running in winter is one thing, but running in the summer with luggage was another kind of a marathon. Plus, it could save me a decent amount of T money over the course of the summer. Not to mention, I would be living farther away from classes and my jobs. It made complete sense to invest in something so worthwhile as extra sleep and less spending money for sports deodorant.

My former bike, except in pink, magenta, and white.

So, I searched Craigslist for a teen’s bike. Yes, that was part of the problem of biking shopping; I’m much too short for standard adult bikes. A few decent hours of research and I found the perfect match: A pink, magenta, and white Schwinn girl’s bike with 24” inch wheels and 21 speeds, barely used and ready to go for $80 dollars. After a good amount of phone tag and a quick withdraw from my savings from wages, I bought her and wheeled her home carefully. I named her “Bo Peep” after her pink colors. I even told my mother the colors would serve as a reminder never to speed (It is my mom’s favorite hue). Earlier that day, I went with a close friend of mine to buy a helmet. I had almost everything I needed except a lock, but I had plans to pick one up that weekend, study weekend. Surely, I would have the time…

Saturday morning I woke to the news that a friend of the family died the previous night. Devastated and no longer feeling the urge to go to Target, I decided I could wait. No need to rush to get a lock. It was safe in the basement of my brownstone in Bay State. There were plenty of unlocked bikes alongside it. And, after all, it was a kid’s bike.

I planned on Sunday morning a ride with my friend on the Esplanade after I got off of work. It would be our first time riding our bicycles. We talked about visiting places in Boston over the summer, seeing the sights and taking it all in. Everything that we missed out during the school year would be savored. Putting on my uniform, I decided I would take a quick peek on my way out at “my baby.” I had five minutes to get to work as I jogged down the stairs to the basement. I peered into the hallway, right where I placed Bo Peep.

It was empty.

I walked past the laundry machines in disbelief. But it was no mistake, the space between the wall and the line of other bikes was empty. I had lost no sheep, but my Bo Peep was nowhere to be found.

The scream that struggled in my chocked voice never made it out. Instead, I bounded up the stairs in record time and began tearing down my RA’s door in panic. She answered less than amused, but her expression changed as the word fragments began to spell “my bike…stolen!”

Contacts exchanged, and there was little left for her to help me with. I texted my boss on the way to BUPD’s station in West Campus, “Going to be late–in police station–got robbed.” During the tense waiting session for the cop to take my info, I began to cry. It dawned on me. I lost my little Bo Peep. I was robbed.

Still in shock, I shared obediently all the knowledge I could give the cop. I was given a case number and sympathy. I trudged back to work with a gaping hole in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I went over the information in my head throughout my shift. What the hell just happened to me? How do I cope with the fact that someone in my brownstone is a thief?  Who would steal a child’s bike? Why would someone do this? Why was it me?

Public Enemy #1:My sketch of the bike thief. Curtesy of Nickelodeon Studios.

First off, may I add the statement that there is no remorse in my being for the person who put me through this ordeal. I’m pretty sure they did not pull a Robin Hood and feed the hungry or get the bike for their kids. If anything, they probably stole the bike for either sheer thrill or for weed money. That’s right, that bike they stole wouldn’t even put a dent on a decent rent. Instead they robbed from a person who had to save their money from wages to buy a big purchase (a whopping $80). Mommy and Daddy don’t believe in allowances, so I must work for all things I want to own. I’m pretty sure I am not the only one here that goes to college like this either. And I never even got to ride it! What’s worse, this is the third time I’ve lived through a robbery. Once in my house, once in my car, and now once in my dorm. Not to mention they robbed me during finals. Sick and twisted are quite possibly the nicest things I can say about this person. The other comments are not fit to print.

So dear potential bike thieves, before you steal-think about this: that person you are stealing from may not be some rich kid with five other bikes at home. They are human beings with feelings. That may be their only transportation home. That may be the only way they can get to work. It may even be their hobby. But when you steal from someone, you are not just taking the object home with you; you leave that person with insecurity and fear. I no longer trust my housemates. I am afraid to so much as leave my books in the common room for a break. All this year I spent conquering the fear of the road when, little did I know, it would be the fear of my thieving neighbors that would render me bike-less. I can’t be thankful enough to move out. I am shaken, as if I had just sat and watched $80 dollars of my hard earned cash thrown into a fire place and burned. Sick and twisted indeed.

At the police station, while filing my report with the officer, I was informed that bikes are the number one stolen item on campus. It happens often and to many different kinds of people. From the intense bike riders on the speed racers to the novices who just brought their bikes from home, nearly everyone who has a bike at BU risks getting it stolen. Obviously, take the precaution of locking your bike, even in a brownstone where everyone else’s is unlocked. Maybe it might the difference.

If you bike is stolen, may I offer the following suggestions:

1)      Report it to BUPD: Yes, there’s a good chance you may not see it again and it’s a far walk from East Campus, but not reporting it does a disservice not only to yourself, but to your fellow students. Failing to report your bike stolen means the thief gets away scotch free and with license to do it again and again. If police notice a pattern in robberies, they will know which areas to better patrol and hopefully catch the guy-“COPS” style.

2)      If insured, file: Get police report from above, and hand it in. You may not get your bike back, but you can at least afford a new one.

3)      Talk to friends to keep an eye out: It’s a start.

4)      Check Craigslist/Ebay for suspicious listing: You know that segment in the morning radio shows that’s titled “Morons in the News”? Lots of stupid criminals, eh? You may get lucky.

5)      Talk to friends for counseling: It’s not a sympathy ploy, you’ve been hurt and you’re entitled to a couple hugs.

6)      Moving on:…can’t really suggest here if I’m still working on it-can I?

For a while there, I entered and exited through the basement, checking the bike room every time. I was hoping against hope that the thief would have mercy and return my little bike back. Every time I was reminded that the world is a cruel place to live, but it’s the only thing I can afford. I left or entered my building let down by my hope in humanity. That spot is still empty, my helmet unused, and my freshly paid-for bike lock waiting for a future.

About Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo (CAS '11) is a Film writer for the Quad. Drawn into the world of film studies accidentally, she's continued on writing, writing, and writing about film since. She also co-writes on another blog,, which is about even geekier film stuff. If you have the time, she would love to watch a movie with you.

View all posts by Monica Castillo →

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