Students launch class project to prevent bike thefts across city

PORTLAND, Ore. - Zach Gough cannot forget the feeling.

Like thousands of others in Portland, his bike was stolen - in this case, outside Portland's Museum of Contemporary Craft.

"I said, 'Ugh. That's my helmet.' And my bike, of course, was gone," Gough recalled.

Drawing from his frustration, Gough and his good friend, Erin Charpentier, both graduate students of art and social practice, turned the experience into a school project.

They launched a movement to mark places throughout the city where a bike's been stolen with something visual, like a ripped red T-shirt. The idea is for those markings to accumulate over time, with one cyclist after another leaving an indicator of a stolen bike.

Their hope is that these markings would be hard to ignore. For instance, if you came across a bike rack and noticed red markings, it would send a clear message to be careful.

"I think it's sort of a personal gesture," Charpentier said. "It's another alternative method for someone to communicate that their bike was stolen."

While Gough and Charpentier launched a visual approach to tracking bike thefts, the Portland Police Bureau on Monday released hard numbers.

Of the more than 2,000 thefts in the city, most occurred in the downtown area. And of those, most happened on Saturdays more than any other day; Thursday had the least number of reported thefts.

Want to learn more about bike thefts in Portland? Gough and Charpentier are holding a workshop Tuesday night at Portland's Museum of Contemporary Craft, 724 N.W. Davis St.