Montreal police, Vélo Québec call on cyclists to download app aimed at preventing bike thefts

Vélo Québec estimates anywhere between 15,000 and 25,000 bikes are stolen every year in Montreal alone.

Vélo Québec estimates between 15,000 and 25,000 bikes stolen in Montreal every year

Montreal police and Vélo Québec are warning cyclists to be wary of thefts this summer. (Carl Boivin/Radio-Canada)

Montreal police are encouraging cyclists to download an anti-theft app this summer, following the lead of other Canadian cities. 

The app, 529 Garage, was developed in Portland, Ore., in 2013. Its purpose is twofold: to create a network of cyclists that makes it possible to track local theft reports, and to dissuade people from stealing bikes in the first place. 

The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) became the first police force in the province to join the app's network this week. 

"The cities where the app is available did not take long to get surprising results. The City of Vancouver registered a decrease of almost 40 per cent in bike thefts since the arrival of 529 Garage in 2015," the SPVM stated. 

Cyclists can register their bike on the app by first creating a profile, and then uploading a photo along with information about the bike, such as its serial number, make and model.

Users can also request a sticker to place on the bike itself to dissuade people from stealing it — similar to the strategy used by home security companies.

"The secure sticker has a unique identification number that dissuades the thieves," the SPVM said.

"If unfortunately a bike is stolen, its owner can set off an alert in seconds on both the 529 Garage website and the mobile app." 

Victims of bike theft can post their bikes on the 529 Garage app, with serial numbers and distinct characteristics that may lead to the bikes' recovery. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

But in order for the app to be effective, a sufficient number of cyclists in the area need to download it. That's why Vélo Québec is joining the SPVM in informing people about the app.

"We're really trying to find ways to make bike theft a problem of the past," said Magali Bebronne, program director at Vélo Québec.

Vélo Québec estimates between 15,000 and 25,000 bikes are stolen every year in Montreal alone. "Around 2000 bikes are reported stolen every year. And that's just the tip of the iceberg because a lot of people don't report it," Bebronne said. 

Bebronne expects to see even higher numbers of bike thefts this year, because the pandemic has led to a bike shortage.

She said the app would allow people to verify whether a bike they are thinking about buying has been stolen.

Though other police agencies in the province have not yet joined the app's network, Vélo Québec is encouraging cyclists in all regions to download it. 

Quebec City police are also looking into using the app, but say they will be monitoring if it works in Montreal first. 

With files from Josh Grant and Radio-Canada