Third stolen bike inspires a mapping, theft prevention education project for UWL senior
UW-La Crosse student Joshua Rostek had left his new bike unlocked in back of a friend’s house for only 10 minutes when he noticed the fresh tire truck marks in the grass where he’d left it.
It was the third time someone had stolen Rostek’s bike around UWL.
“I was frustrated, sad and mad,” he recalls.
But Rostek didn’t dwell on it. Instead, the geography major, with an emphasis in geographic information systems (GIS), decided to put his web-mapping skills to the test. He reached out to University Police with the idea of developing an internship to create an interactive bike theft map for campus. The new tool could potentially help authorities and the general public better visualize the problem and find solutions. This semester Rostek, also an environmental studies minor, is sharing his interactive map and educating campus about bike theft prevention as part of a capstone project.
Rostek will share his map and bike theft prevention ideas during two events on campus called, “Lock it Up.” People can stop by between 12:30-2 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, or from 4-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, in the Student Union first floor near Einstein Bros. Bagels.
Rostek admits that he either locked his bike improperly or didn’t lock it at all on the three occasions when it was stolen. He hopes to help other students avoid the same mistakes by sharing proper locking techniques and handing out free U-locks during the events. Rostek ultimately aims to help promote a better biking culture on campus as more thefts could deter people from using this sustainable and healthy way of getting around.
From his interactive map project, he also has data to share with students about locations on campus to lock bikes where the greatest and least amounts of theft occur. Other statistics point to months when theft is the highest, among other statistics. The map helps visualize the information, notes Rostek.
“Crime has a location,” he explains. “If we see where theft is occurring, we can build a solution to combat the problem.”
The map is not yet hosted online, but Rostek hopes it will become a tool for the campus community in the future.
Rostek’s mapping internship was one of three internships during his time at UWL. A UWL professor connected him with the opportunity for his first internship at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center U.S. Geological Survey in summer 2015.
After his bike theft internship, he was able to emphasize his skills in mapping to earn a competitive GIS internship surveying hiking trails and creating maps in Vail, Colorado, during summer 2017. He now works as a contracted geographer for MapTheXperience, with potential for a job offer after graduation.
Rostek says attending college as a first-generation student brought some initial uncertainties as he had to take on a large amount of student loans. But he hopes by taking advantage of so many college-related opportunities, it will pay off in the future.
“College has prepared me for the real world. Not necessarily the course work, but all of the intangibles of living on my own and growing into myself,” he says. “I’ve learned to be open minded and think in the perspective of others. It’s been a multi-dimensional experience I hope to continue and make learning a life-long adventure.”