British Columbia

How to prevent bike theft — and recover a stolen bike

According to Vancouver Police, bicycle thefts rose from 1,800 in 2012 to over 3,000 last year — and Granville Island and areas around False Creek are the hot-spots for bikes to go missing.

Vancouver Police say they recover 100's of bikes, but many lack serial numbers, other registration

According to the Vancouver Police Department, bicycle thefts rose from 1,800 in 2012 to over 3,000 last year — and Granville Island and areas around False Creek are the hot spots for bikes to go missing. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Bike theft happens all over the province — but it is rampant in Vancouver, where bike thefts have increased from about 1,800 in 2012 to over 3,000 last year according to statistics from the Vancouver Police Department.

"If a thief thinks they can get 10 bucks for a bicycle and it's easy to steal, they will steal it," says Const. Brian Montague.

Number of bikes thefts of under $5,000 in Vancouver from January 1, 2012 to April 30, 2016. (Vancouver Police Department)

He told B.C. Almanac that many bikes are stolen by "chronic offenders," sometimes for transportation and other times so the parts can be sold.

Here are some tips for preventing the theft of your bicycle — and what you can do so that if it is stolen, you can get it back. 

1. Use a good lock

Never rely on a cable lock, says Erin O'Melinn, executive director of Hub, a Vancouver-based cycling advocacy organization.

"It is so quick to break and then your bike is gone in 10 seconds. You need to use something metal."

O'Melinn suggests using a U-lock.

2. Lock it up properly

"I can fit my wheel, and my frame and the rack all into my current lock. But some folks will combine two different types of lock so they can fit all the parts of their bike on there," O'Melinn said.

"I'd also recommend not having quick-release wheels or quick-release seats because those are obviously very quick to take off."

3. Know the theft hot spots

According to the VPD, these are the 10 most common spots in the city over the last four years for bike theft:

4. Put a serial number on your bicycle

"We recover hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bikes we know are stolen," says Montague.

"But we have no idea who the owner is. The owners aren't providing us with serial numbers or a way to track their bicycles for them."

Engraving a serial number on a bicycle is one way to track it if it is stolen. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

He said the VPD has a 'Log it or lose it' program where people can record their serial numbers so that if a bike is stolen and then recovered, they can be properly identified.

5. Use a bike registry app

The VPD have teamed up with 529 Garage, a digital bike registration system out of Portland.

J Allard, who founded the service, said that the app stores additional information about one's bicycle beyond just the serial number — which could easily be filed off or can be difficult to read.

"You take [the app], you snap a few photos of your bike, side of the bike, a unique characteristic of the bike, the serial number area of the bike," Allard says.

"[Then] if you walk outside a Starbucks and your bike goes missing, you press the alert button, we immediately notify anyone else that's running the app and is also concerned about bike security within a 10-km radius that your bike has gone missing, with the photographs that you've taken.

"So the bike immediately becomes hot and the cops in the community are aware and are on the lookout for it."

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: Bicycle theft on the rise in Vancouver