This is the second post in our series about bike theft in Champaign-Urbana.  You can access our first post, focusing on the UIUC campus, here.

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In our post on Friday, we released a map and data about bike theft on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus with the promise that we would soon be presenting you with information about all of Champaign-Urbana.  For those of you that have not yet seen that post, read it for more background information and a discussion of issues relevant to bike theft on campus.  I will again stress that, while bike theft is common, it’s not something that most residents experience.  The easiest way to keep your bike from getting stolen is to buy a good lock and to lock the frame of your bike to something.  For a more in-depth discussion of bike locks and stats on how students lock their bike on campus, read Tuesday’s blog post.


This map was created from all cases of bike theft reported to the Champaign, Urbana, and UIUC police departments in the past two years (August 2012-August 2014).  These documents can be accessed here, here, and here.  There were 856 cases of bike theft reported during this time period, 161 on campus, 336 in Urbana, and 359 in Champaign.  We plotted all the locations on a Google map that is accessible here.  We then made additional calculations about theft frequency by month and the bikes’ reported value. 

THEFT POSTER_Heat map-thumbnail

Click to open a full-sized map.

I think that some interesting comparisons can be made by looking at differences between the three communities.

  • The most notable difference is the drop in campus bike theft during the summer months.  There is then a sharp increase in August and September, when students arrive.  Explaining this is pretty easy.  There are less people on campus and therefore fewer bikes.  That means there are fewer opportunities for bike theft to occur.  Additionally, thieves may focus on other areas of town (e.g. downtown Urbana and Champaign) that continue to have a lot of people and bikes.  Champaign and Urbana’s theft pattern reflects good biking weather, while the theft pattern on Campus reflects both good biking weather and student presence.
  • Urbana, though like Champaign in that there is significant theft during the summer months, has a much sharper peak during September and August, with the other warm months having relatively less reported bike theft.
  • If we look at the University of Illinois campus as a separate entity, Urbana has about twice the number of reported bike thefts per capita than does Champaign.  Urbana has a population of only 41,250 with 336 reported cases of bike theft, while Champaign is almost twice as large, with 83,424 people and 359 reported cases of bike theft.

Price of bikes was calculated based on information from campus and Champaign bike thefts, as there is not specific information about price of stolen bikes in Urbana beyond whether or not its value is above or below $500.  When taking these stats into consideration, remember that these values are reported values and are likely somewhat higher than these bikes’ real value.

The average reported value of stolen bikes was only $275.  This ranged from $1 (You’d be surprised at the number of bikes valued by their owners at only $1.) to $3,000.  Of these, 59% were valued at $200 or less and almost one third, 32% were valued at $100 or less.  The main message of this is that your bike being cheap doesn’t mean it won’t get stolen – most bikes that get stolen are cheap.  Even if you have a cheap bike, get a good lock and save yourself the hassle of being stranded 15 miles from your house after busses have stopped running.  Neutral Cycle has a wide range of types and sizes of U-locks starting at only $26 – a price not too far off the price of many easily-removed cable locks.


Another point is that it’s important to keep in mind that these are only reported bike thefts; a lot of bike theft goes unreported.  Capt. Roy Acree of the UIUC PD estimated that about 40-50% of bike thefts are reported.  Assuming that this holds true for all three areas and given that there were 856 cases in the past two years, we can estimate that from 856 to 1070 bikes are stolen in the CU area ever year.  That’s somewhere between 2-3 bikes a day on average.  The low recovery rate of bikes is probably one reason why so many bike thefts go unreported.

Let us know what you think!  How do you deal with keeping your bike from being stolen?  Also, what other topics would you like us to discuss or investigate on this site?  Make sure to regularly check our blog for new posts about bicycles, the CU community, and other related issues.

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