What about those abandoned bikes?

To maintain as many campus bicycle parking spaces as possible, DOTS partners with Residential Facilities, Facilities Management and Campus Recreation Services to remove abandoned bikes from racks. Many students just leave their bikes on a rack somewhere after they graduate or leave campus.  Other students forget they ever brought a bike to campus to begin with (!). These long-forgotten bikes clog the racks, especially at high-traffic rack areas like McKeldin Library, The Stamp, and near the Math and Engineering buildings.

How do we process bikes perceived to be abandoned?

  1. Bike is tagged with two week warning notice
  2. After two week have passed, the bike is collected by DOTS and stored our impound facility
  3. Bike is added to online database of impounded bikes, available online here: https://www.parking.umd.edu/bike
  4. Bike is held for 1 year and then donated to Mt Rainier Bicycle Coop or resold through Terrapin Trader

What does an abandoned bike look like? 

  1. Flat tires
  2. Rusty chain
  3. Laying on the ground
  4. Hasn’t been moved in several days
  5. Has missing or damaged components (seat, a wheel)
  6. Generally needs some TLC
  7. This


What can you do to help?

If you no longer want or need your bike please go to the DOTS website and fill out a Bike Relinquishment form, available online here: http://www.transportation.umd.edu/images/Green/PDFs/BikeRelinqueshmentForm.pdf.  We can then donate your bike to Mt Rainier Bicycle Coop (they repair or recycle the bikes for use by local community members) or resell your bike to the UMD campus community.

If your bike is tagged, but you’re still riding it, then it may be time for a tune up!

The Campus Bike Shop provides free service, and can get your bike back into working order in no time.  Just stop by the shop for a chain lube and some air in your tires.  They can also take care of more extensive repairs and teach you the skills to maintain your bike on your own.

Happy Biking!

-Valerie Goubeau and Michael Levengood

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Troubleshooting U-lock Key Failures

Some words of advice regarding U-lock key issues from John Brandt, of the Universities at Shady Grove:

We’ve had this problem and I think rain is washing out whatever lube the manufacturers put in the locks when they assemble them (planned obsolescence?). Eventually, the moving parts of the lock mechanism bind and since the straight keys are inherently weaker that the cylindrical keys, they twist off. Maryland has a lot of rain (40-45 inches per year) so we’ve had this problem with a number of the u-locks we’ve given away and/or sold (all reputable brands) and a good number of other u-locks, as well. The simple solution I’ve found is to put an occasional drop of heavy oil on the moving parts of the locking mechanism that engage the u-bar portion of the lock. Some of the lube may find its way back into the lock tumblers, but in every case I’ve worked on it’s the sliding-locking-bar/pin that was the problem. Simple lubrication seems to prevent the problem from ever occurring and usually fixes it if it does.

• take the lock apart into its two parts
• set the u-portion aside, it’s just an inert piece of metal
• turn the key to make the lock mechanism move to the locked position
• as you turn the key, look into the holes where the u-portion fits
• some u-locks will only lock one side, other will lock at both ends (photo shows a one-sided mechanism)
• drip several drops of machine oil (or chain lube) onto the part that you see moving when you turn the key; this is the sliding-locking-bar/pin that engages the u-portion (see photo below)
• work the key back and forth a few times to get the oil between the moving parts
• once they move smoothly again, the key should no longer bind and you’re good to go

Image 1

Even with a frozen/stuck u-lock, there is one thing you can try as long as the key isn’t broken off in the lock and unable to be removed. Squirt copious amounts of a thin penetrating oil (like WD-40) down the tiny seams where the u-portion enters both sides of the bar of the u-lock (see photo below). Do it on both sides and don’t be shy with the amount; flood it good. Squirt a tiny bit right into the keyhole, too, just in case. If you’re willing to wait a few minutes for the oil to penetrate, you may find that the key turns again if you start by gently wiggling it back and forth to help the oil penetrate even further. That works on better than 90% of the stuck locks I’ve worked on. I do not use thin oils like WD-40 to lube locks once they’re working again; it washes off too quickly so I use a heavy lube for that.

Image 2

For preventive maintenance:

• Check your lock whenever you lube your chain
• If the turning key seems to bind or turn stiffly, re-lube those parts (you already have your lube in your hand)
• Prevention is key. If you leave your bicycle outside in the rain a lot, lube the lock more often; the more it rains, the more often you should re-lube the mechanism
• I use a non-greasy lube (Poxylube) for my keyholes so my key doesn’t always come out greasy and stain my pockets ( http://www.locksmithledger.com/product/10288074/sandstrom-products-poxyluber-cp200 ), but I prefer a heavy lube for the mechanism because it doesn’t wash off as fast.

My bikes don’t live outside 24/7 like many others do, but I lube all my locks once a year and I’ve never had a problem with any of my u-locks in over 20 years.

Good luck!

John Brandt
Safety, Security & Transportation Manager
The Universities at Shady Grove

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Not Us Yet, But Soon! 10 Most Bike-Friendly Campuses in the U.S.

As we prepare our Bike Friendly University application for this year (we’re currently Bronze-level), we took a moment to see what other campus biking leaders are up to.  An interesting article from Best Colleges Online tells us all about them. Take a look here and let us know what you think.

Posted in bicycle advocacy, developing bikeUMD | 3 Comments

May Symposium on Trails and Water in the Anacostia Watershed

On Monday, May 7th, I attended a very interesting symposium about Trails and Water in the Anacostia Watershed.  While I enjoyed presentations on water quality improvements in the Anacostia Watershed and other ongoing projects, I was most excited to hear updates regarding regional trails that are currently under construction, including estimated completion dates for some. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has united local governments whose joint efforts will eventually connect all of the trails in the region to facilitate north-south and east-west travel.  If everything goes as planned, it will be possible to travel from Laurel down to Washington, D.C. and from Gaithersburg to Southern Maryland, all by way of off-road trails! Not to mention, many other localities and points of interest will be connected by this trail network as well.

There is still plenty of work to be done and it will take until almost 2015, if not longer, before these projects are completed, but it’s great to see that plans have been made and progress is underway.

As an aside, there were also a number of presentations made by third year UMD students from the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation on the subject of the Brier’s Mill Run Watershed. These presentations showcased new ideas and highlighted very sensible suggestions for change. The students seem invested in the local community, and expressed interest in spending more time the field to develop and institute future planning projects.

-Michael Levengood, bikeUMD Bicycle Coordinator

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New Parking in Mowatt Lane Garage

DOTS and bikeUMD have installed DERO Double Decker bike racks into the Mowatt Lane Garage. For a video on how to use them, click here:

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Riggs Road Crossing – Video

This video was submitted by one of our commuters. He prefers this route for crossing Riggs Road.

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Do you support a new trail by the Riggs Road Crossing?

This is the word we have from MDOT so far on trying to install a trail on the public utility Right of Way near the Riggs Road crossing.

A bonus, however, I have added your request for a trail across the powerline property connecting Riggs Road to Fordham Road to a list of needed bicycling connections for a new trails program that MDOT is now leading. If you have any information pertaining to this project in terms of research done, stakeholders that have been involved in conversations or have done any sort of investigation into the location, emails that people have sent in support of it, etc. please forward that stuff to me as it will help with the development of the project. If any work has been done so far it would be great to know about as we can possibly help advance those efforts forward.

View Larger Map
 We need members of the Langley Park and Campus Community to write in letters of support for this project.

Please direct letters to :

Dustin M. Kuzan

Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator

Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering

Maryland State Highway Administration

707 N. Calvert St, Baltimore, MD  21202

Tel: 410-545-5656


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Sept. 12 Update from SHA regarding Riggs Road and Campus Drive Crossings

Sept. 12, 2011

The SHA follows procedures outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to determine when and where traffic control devices should be installed.  A study of the existing bicycle accommodations at the MD 193/Campus Drive turn ramp and the MD 193/Adelphi Road eastbound and westbound right-turn lanes has been conducted.  It has been determined that, because there are no existing designated bike lanes at these locations, we are unable to install skip-striping to denote a space for cyclists crossing the ramp at Campus Drive nor rumble strips along the right-turn lane on MD 193 approaching Adelphi Road.  As it is not consistent with the SHA Policy for Accommodating Bicycles and Pedestrians on State Highways, SHA continues to make accommodations for bicycling and walking an integral element of projects and planning, where possible.  However, we will install “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signing approaching the right turn lane onto Campus Drive to inform motorists that there are bicyclists present and may take the full lane to navigate the intersection. The sign installation typically takes 60 days to complete weather and scheduling permitting.

 In regards to our field meeting on July 1, 2011, where you requested we add a crosswalk along MD 212 at Drexel Street, we are pleased to inform you that the signal design is underway for this location. The design will implement a crossing on MD 212 and restripe the existing crossing on Drexel Street. We will update the existing signal equipment to include audible pedestrian signals (APS) and countdown pedestrian signals (CPS). Construction for this project is expected to begin in July 2012.


If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact my Team Leader for Traffic, Ms. Shaneka Owens, at 301-513-7424 or 1-800-749-0737.  Ms. Owens will be pleased to assist you.





Felecia Murphy

Assistant District Engineer-Traffic (Prince George’s County)

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Bike Theft Primer

I’ve written this primer on locking bicycles because I may have some experience and/or information that some of you might not.  I was a university police officer from 1980-2010 and ran a Police Bicycle Unit for almost 20 years and a Crime Prevention Unit and Records Unit for many of those years, as well.  I was also trained to remove demonstrators that had locked themselves to things, so I’ve been formally trained on defeating many, many types of locking devices.  Lastly, my university is inside the Washington D.C. “beltway” and we’re not too far from Baltimore.  As a result, our bike theft problem may be more severe than for many of you and I was in the ideal position to pay attention to what was going on for a long time.  That said, I believe that as gas prices rise and biking becomes more prevalent, the problem will become greater for all of us. 



Here’s the short and sweet of it; bike thieves are opportunists with tools.  If they can find an unlocked, unattended bicycle, they’re happy to take it, but if that chance doesn’t present itself, they use their tools to create their own opportunity.  They want to work fast and unobserved, and they want to ride away on your bike and blend in quickly with other cyclists.  If they’re the kind of bike thief who comes equipped with transport for multiple bikes, they probably have multiple tool systems and you’re in real trouble because there is no bicycle lock that can’t be beaten!  If you lock your $5000 bicycle out in public, there’s no lock that can prevent it from being stolen and no way to keep the components from being stripped off the bike.  Believe me, there’s also no bicycle too cheap, too ugly, or too old to get stolen.  Thieves may find other bicycles that are more attractive targets, but at some point all of our bicycles are targets.



If you’ve read this far, you want to know the “ideal” place and method to lock your bicycle, but you’re not going to like the “ideal” answer.  If you have to leave your bicycle parked somewhere, the most “ideal” bicycle parking is inside your home or your workplace, in a locked area (closet, garage, etc.), locked with at least two different types of locks, and to something that’s anchored to the building frame.  Even then, the locks must be case-hardened U-locks or case-hardened chains/padlocks and the door to that closet or storage area must be closed and locked and under monitored CCTV surveillance or with a nearby guard.  Okay, that’s not remotely possible unless you’re the CEO of your own company.  The next step down, buying a folding bicycle and keeping it locked under your work-desk may not be an option either.  That’s reality and once you accept that there is no perfect solution to bicycle theft, you’re ready for the real world. 


If you want to keep your bicycle, you have some decisions to make, like:

  • How much am I willing to spend?  Better, more secure locks cost more money.
  • How much trouble am I willing to endure or how much time and I willing to spend to make my bicycle less likely to be stolen?


Simply put, your job isn’t to make your bicycle theft-proof; your job is to make it more trouble to steal than all of the other bicycles around it; enough trouble to make a thief steal someone else’s bicycle.  To a bicycle thief, “trouble” is caused by two main things:

  • Multiple, stronger, and generally more expensive locks (you get what you pay for), and
  • Taking the time and effort to put your bicycle in the most secure place possible and then taking the time to lock it up “properly.”


In the real world, no lock “stops” bicycle thieves, but good locks and locking practices can displace them to other bicycles.  If you make any crime more difficult to commit in any specific area, criminals move to places where they can continue their chosen profession.  When it comes to bicycle theft, you just want that place to be away from you and your bicycle. 



Okay, you got this far; here are the best practices, but keep in mind that they’re general rules and aren’t intended to encompass every type of locking device.


  • 3/8” to 5/8” cable locks (coated or uncoated) are virtually worthless as a primary or lone locking device and only provide a false sense of security.  Cables can be a good device for preventing opportunistic, walk-off thefts, but if your bike is out of your sight, cables provide less than two seconds of protection.  Don’t believe hype from manufacturers or dealers about how “their” cable is stronger or better than all the “others.”  Don’t listen if they tell you it’s Kevlar reinforced; a Kevlar thread can support an incredible weight, but it cuts like any other thread or fabric.  Cable locks can be easily beaten in as many as six ways; three by easily concealable, hand-tools. 


Don’t get me wrong, cable locks aren’t totally worthless; they’re just worthless as a single, primary locking device.  Cable locks can be a nice secondary lock and can aid in making your bicycle more trouble to steal.


  • U-locksare a LOT better than a cable lock, but still not perfect.  You generally need power tools or a lot more time to defeat a u-lock.  That makes them less likely to be attacked, but they’re not a perfect solution to bicycle theft and we’re still our worst enemy for two reasons:
    • We buy the cheapest u-lock we can find (you get what you pay for) and
    • We don’t usually use the lock properly or to its best advantage


U-lock manufacturers will tell you that the best you can do is to lock your u-lock through both bicycle wheels, your frame, and a substantial bike rack.  All that material fills the space inside the u-lock and makes it more difficult to defeat your u-lock with “spreader” attacks.  There’s no room to apply tools without damaging what they’re trying to steal.  Of course, almost no one locks their bicycle this way because they don’t want to take the time or don’t know how to remove and replace their front wheel.  A standard, quick-release, front wheel is easy to remove and with practice, only takes seconds, but if you don’t know how, learn; ask at any bike shop.  Let me make this completely clear; in 30 years of police work, I’m unaware of ANY bicycle ever stolen on my campus that was locked with a u-lock, through both wheels and the frame, to an intact bike rack. 



Here’s why this works so well.  If you attach your u-lock through your frame, but not any wheel, your bike can still be ridden away if what you’re secured to can be defeated.  People ride around with u-locks hanging from their frames and handlebars all the time and police don’t pay any attention to this.  If your u-lock is through your bike frame and at least one wheel, your bike is less likely to be stolen than other bicycles with both wheels free because those other bicycles can be ridden away while yours must be carried.  Police officers will notice a locked bicycle being carried.  In fact, I’ve found that a good police bicycle officer will look suspiciously at any bicycle being pushed instead of being ridden; they’re wondering why it isn’t being ridden. 


Okay, let’s be honest; most people aren’t going to take off their front wheel.  They don’t want to get their hands dirty, they don’t understand the theft risk, or in their head they’ve balanced the effort needed to lock their bicycle properly against the risk of it being stolen and they’ve decided it’s worth the risk.  We’ll call these people “potential victims.”  They’re the people whose bicycles will be stolen instead of yours, if you just lock yours a little better than theirs.  Okay, if you’re one of these people, there’s another way to make your bicycle a more difficult target.  If you choose to include only one wheel in the u-lock, putting a cable lock through the other wheel and your frame also makes your bike more trouble to steal.  It’s an accepted truism that different types of locks are defeated by different tools and that thieves usually specialize in only one type of tool.  I wouldn’t bet my bicycle on it, but more is usually better.


Yes, some old models of u-lock could be defeated with a Bic pen and I’ve seen the video on the web, but I’m unaware of any new u-lock model that has this particular flaw.  You can probably also freeze them in liquid nitrogen and then shatter them with a hammer or cut them off with an oxy-acetylene torch, but the ability to transport and use liquid nitrogen and/or welding torches is WAY beyond most bike thieves.  If your thieves are this sophisticated, you’re better off banning bicycle parking except inside secured and monitored facilities. 



There are also what I’ll call “massive chains and padlocks.”  This category includes most over-sized locking devices.  Some look like gigantic handcuffs, but many are just 3-6 foot long chains, encased in a flexible sleeve, and secured by heavy-duty, case-hardened, padlocks or mini-u-locks.  Due to their size and weight, they’re often marketed for motorcycles or motor scooters, but they seem to work just as well as u-locks if you follow the same locking advice.  There are tools that can defeat them, but if used properly, they’re pretty good at displacing thieves to other bicycles.  The advantage of the chains is that they can often snake through both wheels and the frame, without detaching any wheels.  Their disadvantage is their size and weight.  Many bicyclists, commuters in particular, leave these types of locks at their destination and may never actually carry the lock around.



  • Lastly, there are some things to think about that aren’t as obvious as the size, expense, and number of locks you use.  These things can also help reduce your risk of bicycle theft:
    • Lock your bicycle in a highly visible, highly trafficked area; ideally one used by large numbers of bicyclists.  Other bicyclists are probably more likely to call the police if they see a thief at work in a bicycle rack.
    • If your bicycle is out in times of low light, make sure the rack area is well lit.
    • Find a rack that is in the view of local police, guards, CCTV, or watched by any other means.  This observation should be obvious; hidden cameras don’t discourage theft.
    • Look for secure, interior storage areas, like bike-barns, bike lockers, offices, etc.
    • Find an area with active local bicycle cops.  Bike cops are more likely to notice suspicious activity around bicycles and because they’re cyclists, too; they have an even greater reason to hate bicycle thieves.



Before you rush out to park your bicycle, here are the most common locking mistakes we see:

  • Locking only the front wheel allows the thief to steal an unsecure front wheel from a similar, nearby bike and attach it to your bike.  You’re left with your locked front wheel and no bicycle.  Someone else, probably nearby, has a bike with no front wheel.
  • The front fork is not a frame element.  If you lock your bike through the front fork, the thief will remove the bike from the front wheel and pull the fork up and out of the lock.  The bike and wheel are then re-connected and they ride away, leaving your lock, alone and empty, on the rack.
  • If you lock your bike at an inverted-u rack, but the rack has become loose in the ground, the thief will just pull the rack out of the ground to free your bike.  Trust me, they’ll also slide the rack back into the ground and hope to get more bikes off it in the future.  If you use this style of rack, please check them occasionally.  Strike it sharply with your palm before you use it.  If it vibrates like a giant tuning fork, it’s secure in the ground.  If it doesn’t vibrate, report it to whoever can fix it!  If you see someone shaking one of these racks, they’re probably a thief, trying to break a new rack loose for future use.
  • Don’t leave the “lock” portion of your device against the ground.  If you do, many devices can eventually be beaten into submission with a large hammer.  Lock your device in a manner that forces your lock to stay off the ground.  If beating on the lock destroys your bicycle frame, it’s pretty worthless to any thief who steals it.
  • If you lock your bike to something other than a bike rack and whatever you’re locked to can be defeated easily, don’t expect your bike to be there when you return.
    • Thieves just rip bicycles up and off most landscape items. 
    • If your lock fits over the parking meter head, they can just lift your bike off the meter (or sign post or fence post).
    • Wrought iron is actually quite weak at each weld-point; you may not even notice that it’s already broken and bends easily.  Cheap aluminum, cast-fencing, is even worse for security.
    • Chains or cables that stretch between bollards are a horrible place to attach your bicycle.  They’re not there for bicycle security; they’re there to herd pedestrians.  The chain or cable can usually be cut or just pulled out from one end and every bike along that chain or cable is now loose.
    • Arms and legs of decorative lawn or patio furniture are easy to break and separate.  Thieves then push them back together with a tiny dot of glue so they look secure to the next bicyclist.


Of course, most bike thefts could have been avoided if the owner had just run their u-lock through at least one wheel.  Thieves don’t want to CARRY a bike away, this attracts unwanted attention, they want to RIDE it away and blend in quickly with every other nearby cyclist.  This is why I say that encouraging bicyclists to use a u-lock through their frame and at least one wheel is a compromise that I’ve decided I’m willing to accept.  They may not be willing to take their other wheel off each time they lock their bike, but it only takes a moment more to make sure you include one wheel with the frame as you lock up.  If they have a cable as a secondary locking device, it can be run through the free wheel to make the bicycle an even more difficult theft target.



In the past few years, we’ve given away hundreds of u-locks and sold many more at wholesale cost.  At the same time, the theft rate for bicycles on my campus has dropped.  The remaining thefts still have one thing in common, over 90% (it varies from month to month) of the victims were only using cable locks.  Many of the remaining thefts were unsecured bikes taken from inside buildings, cars, etc.  I’m aware that there are probably other factors that reduced the theft-rate, like more CCTV cameras, better racks, and better lighting and I can’t easily factor those into the equation, but it seems obvious to me……lots of good racks and lots of u-locks means less bicycle theft.



Here are a few thoughts to help minimize the theft of accessories.  If anything can be removed without tools, it can be easily stolen.  You can fix that or choose to live with it:

  • Change your seat post quick-release to a bolt; how often to you really adjust your seat height?
  • You can replace wheel quick releases with bolted axles (yuck) or with locking mechanisms ($$), or you can put a fat zip-tie on the spoon to hold it tight against the frame or fork.  It’s not perfect, but it makes it a little harder to open the spoon.  If you carry tools to do road-repairs on your bike, you should have something that can pop the zip-tie if you get a flat.  If not, with a little more effort, you can fix the flat with the wheel still on.
  • Lights?  Buy lights that bolt or screw on, get ones with quick release clips, or buy cheap enough to not worry about the loss.
  • Computer?  Pop it off and take it with you.  It’s unlikely that a thief really wants your old, used model, but expensive wireless units might be worth a thief’s time.
  • Panniers or other bags?  Take them with you or switch to a courier bag that you wear on your back.
  • Don’t leave your helmet on your bicycle even if it’s threaded through your lock.  They can be unstrapped and stolen or just cut off with a knife or scissors.  Carrying a stolen helmet can make a bicycle thief look less suspicious when hanging around a bicycle rack waiting for an opportunity.  Let’s not provide their camouflage.



Lastly…….here’s the additional advice we should give to everyone………..please, please, please…….register your bike with somebody, record your serial number somewhere, be able to give a detailed description of your bike, and always report it if it’s stolen.


Good luck.


John Brandt

Bicycle Coordinator

University of Maryland, Department of Transportation Services


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Welcome Back!

School is back in session and we can tell that there are a lot more bikes out there. The bike rental program is sold out with a waiting list. (We now have over 50 bikes in the fleet and two departmental programs.) The u-lock giveaways went flying out the door and we have sold more lights in the last week than we sold all last semester.

Coming Changes

We are changing to a CatEye LED headlight and tail light set starting next week. Still $20 like the old light set. These are identical to the lights we gave away during the Bikes Be Bright event last year.

We should have plenty of the Lazer helmets in stock. It makes good sense to have one and use one.

The Transportation Fair is next week Wednesday. Please join us in Hornbake Plaza for cotton candy, popcorn and prizes! Also, enter to win a new bike. Barbara Ball from REI will be there as usual and we will also have all of the updated information at the bikeUMD table to help you bike on and around campus.

Soon we will be announcing the new dates for the Bicycle Advisory Group (BAG). If you are interested in joining please email the bike coordinator at bikecoordinator@umd.edu. or just leave a message on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/BikeUMD/113115015368119

We are expecting a lot of new changes in the coming year. Stay posted. Announcements will be made on the facebook page but you will always be able to find more details here at the blog.

Happy Cycling!

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