Cambridge Crime Prevention: Cardboard MBTA Cops and a Cyclist’s Curse

Two different methods of trying to cut back on bike thefts have cropped up in Cambridge. But which works better?

The MBTA made national headlines this week after it was revealed that they are now relying on 2-D, life-sized portraits of their transit officers in order to scare off criminals and keep them from stealing bikes from some of the T stations.

The cardboard cutout, which is fastened to a fence at the Alewife Station in Cambridge, has contributed to a roughly 67% dip in bike thefts—with the help of a new secured bike facility that requires keycard access to get in—and will likely be utilized in other stations in the coming months to reduce larceny elsewhere.

While the T’s approach is a novel one, and certainly out of the ordinary, other people in Cambridge, not far away from the transit stops, are also having trouble keeping their bikes safe from thieves.


On Franklin Street, it seems someone has been swiping bikes that were locked to streets signs, prompting one person to put up a a rather large warning that they would cast a mysterious curse-like spell on them—clarifying that curses are in fact legitimate—if they didn’t place the missing bike back where it belonged.

The sign seemed to indicate that more than one bike on that strip of road had recently been nabbed by an alleged culprit, and also showed the sign creator’s fervent frustration with the captor, based on the size of the cardboard, and the zip-ties strategically placed on both the top and bottom of the sign to assure that it is seen and not stolen (those plastic links are tough to break).

Perhaps the MBTA should be of service and start lending out a few of their cardboard cutouts so that other peoples’ bikes in Cambridge don’t get plucked from the street poles that they are chained to.

The MBTA stops, and Cambridge in general, seem to be prime locations for criminals looking to get away with a new ride. According to reports, in 2011 alone, bike thefts peaked, hitting a 12-year high at various MBTA routes, most notably in Cambridge.

These thefts were part of the reason that a Harvard student launched an ambitious initiative to try and track the worst areas to leave a bicycle by creating the website Bikenapped!