Throughout my UCSB career, I’ve learned an extraordinary amount. Now, in my last year here, I realize that, aside from taking for granted the inordinate amount of palm trees standing on campus, I often took for granted my Isla Vista mode of transportation: my bicycle.

I brought to college a blue bike my father had bought for me from Toys “R” Us when I was 12. It was a good bike: It never went flat, always braked when I needed and wasn’t stolen until after my first full year at UCSB. Granted that my bike was locked when it was stolen, I couldn’t help but feel that it was my neglect and refusal to park in the bike rack that brought upon this thieving.

On a campus where bike thefts happen constantly, monitoring the safety of your transport could prove to be difficult. In the end, the two easiest ways to decrease your chances of a stolen two-wheeler are to: Always park in a designated bike rack and always lock your bike. Not locking your bike in a rack will either result in its impoundment or its death. In the long run, parking where you should, as well as investing $15 in a good, solid U-lock or coded number lock will save you a big headache later. It is never pleasant to finish a long day of class at Phelps, only to come back to find the back wheel of your bike gone. I’ve even seen people chain their bikes, and while that seems a little excessive, I’m willing to bet that none of them have ever had their bikes stolen.

Now, I understand laziness. I totally understand why it can be frustrating to lock your bike in a bike rack when all you want to do is run into the Corner Store for a 25-cent blue book. Perhaps the notion that someone would jack your bike outside of Starbucks before class while you’re ordering your Venti orange mocha Frappuccino, is ridiculous. After all, ordering drinks and buying a blue book doesn’t take THAT much time, right? The truth is small-time errands allow just enough time for me to get on your unlocked bright pink cruiser and take off down Pardall Road.

So, once you get your first bike stolen, you can choose to do several things. You can give up bikes completely and turn to the only mode of transportation that is guaranteed never to be stolen: your legs. You can spend another $200 on another shiny Paul Frank, monkey-themed, streamer handlebar bicycle. Or you can participate in what I’ve lovingly dubbed “The Circle of Bikes.”

Bikes are born and murdered, bought and stolen, found and lost at an astounding rate. Bikes that are stolen occasionally turn up under a new owner and are always smartly locked. I “found” my second bike only a few days after it was stolen. It was locked – and because I didn’t want to wait for the thief to reappear – I pulled out the Sharpie Mini I keep on my keychain and wrote “I was stolen” all across the bike. In all honesty, I never bothered to buy a bike after my first was stolen. Not necessarily due to the trauma of losing my first bicycle, but more because I was clued in to the locations of many bike graveyards.

A quick search of any bike graveyard will reveal dozens of unlocked bikes. From my perspective, an unlocked bike is a free bike. By refusing to lock your bike, you are not only giving me permission to take your bike, but you’re also sending me an invitation written in neat and deliberate calligraphy begging me to take it. Keep the school year simple, kids. Just lock your bike because chances are that either my boyfriend or I will find and take your only mode of transportation.