Dude, Where’s My Bike?


art or a truly stolen bike? 050820116831 by roland, on FlickrA little over a year ago, we talked about the Vancouver-based “To Catch A Bike Thief” project, an effort to hook up some bikes as “bait bikes”, wait for them to get stolen, then track them down and confront the thief. And interesting idea, but it looks like it fizzled and didn’t get very far.

Bike theft remains a big problem in Vancouver. Over 1800 bikes were reported stolen in Vancouver in 2012, a 20% increase over the previous year. The Vancouver Police Department provided some statistics for the past few years:


Keep in mind these are reported thefts. How many go unreported?

The City has been installing more and more bike racks around Vancouver, including 543 in 2012 alone. Vancouverite Christopher Porter created a map of the City-installed bike racks, based on Open Data provided by the City. Note that this data covers just the City-installed racks (not those installed on private property), and mostly from after 2010.

The Vancouver Sun recently ran a piece that discussed that, for many people, their bicycle is their primary mode of transportation. The article advocates requiring registration, testing, and licensing for bikes and cyclists. The last two are impractical and ineffective for a myriad of reasons. We covered the issue a bit back in 2011.

The idea of registering your bike, though, is a good one. It won’t prevent theft, but it will prevent your stolen and recovered bike from being auctioned off at the annual Vancouver Police Department’s bike auction.

To promote the idea of registering your bike, the VPD launched a “Log It Or Lose It” campaign this month. This campaign is being run out of the Community Policing Centres, with foot and bike patrols distributing brochures with details on how to properly document your property, including bikes. The Kerrisdale/Oakridge/Marpole CPC is taking it a step further with a dedicated KOM Bike Registry.

Of course, it’s best if your bike’s not stolen in the first place. There’s no magic solution to prevent bike theft, but there are things you can do to make your bike less likely to be stolen:

  • Use a non-barrel key U-Lock to lock your bike frame to something that’s not easily removed itself
  • Some people use a second lock to lock the front wheel to the bike frame, or carry a chain that can be used to secure both the frame and the wheel(s)
  • Park your bike in a well lit, high-traffic location
  • Park your bike where you can see it
  • Don’t leave an expensive, highly-visible bike in a public bike rack. Riding a clunky, heavy, nondescript bike sounds pretty “No-Fun City”, but it’s probably going to be there when you get back.
  • Lock your bike in a rack that has lots of other bikes in it
Bike rack is full at the Tap and Barrel on the Seawall in the Olympic Village. Safety in numbers: your bike probably won't be stolen from here

Bike rack is full at the Tap and Barrel on the Seawall in the Olympic Village. Safety in numbers: your bike probably won’t be stolen from here

It’s easy to list those tips, but I have to admit that it’s pretty unlikely anyone will do all those things. I only carry one lock, and who wants to carry 20 lbs of chain everywhere? I’m also not interested in riding a beater bike everywhere. And always parking a bike where you can see it? Good luck.

Even secure bike rooms are vulnerable. The only place I’ve had a bike stolen from was a bicycle cage in a “secure” parking garage.

What are your experiences with bike theft in Vancouver? How do you ensure your ride is where you left it when you get back?

Last modified: June 10, 2013

2 Responses to " Dude, Where’s My Bike? "

  1. Alex P says:

    I remember locking up at English Bay once, then when I came back to my bike there was a guy by it who told me he was about to break my lock off, but that he was just going to ride it around for a bit then bring it back. Heh, well whatever, it was a cheap second-hand bike anyway.

  2. Hi Anthony, I’ve started a series of posts on my blog about the problem of bicycle theft in British Columbia. You may find it interesting. Here is the first post: