Tips To Help Prevent Bicycle Theft And What To Do If Yours Is Stolen

Thief stealing a bicycle

One of the largest bicycle theft cases in Canada occurred in Toronto in 2008, in which police found thousands of bikes and bicycle parts at one man’s store, home and rental garages.

That case was dramatic, but any cyclist in Canada has reason to worry about their bike being stolen.

“Like most cities, we’re seeing a lot of new riders out there with the [COVID-19] pandemic and we are concerned this could be a time for increased bike theft,” says Navdeep Chhina, acting executive director of HUB Cycling, a charitable organization dedicated to expanding the cycling population in Vancouver. “Most recent thefts have been burglaries, likely stored bikes as people are working at home.”

Bikes are becoming a more popular mode of transport in Montreal as well and, according to Montreal police, 2,000 bikes are reported stolen every year, but most thefts are not reported. And, if you have had your bike stolen, the odds are slim you’ll get it back. According to Toronto police data, there were about 21,000 bike theft reports between 2014 and 2019 and just 252 bikes were reported as having been recovered.

Tips to reduce the chances for your bike being stolen:

  • Register your bicycle with your local police. Toronto, for instance, has a simple form on its website to add your bicycle to the Toronto Police Service Bike Registry Database.
  • Make sure there is a serial number on your bicycle. If it doesn’t have one, then engrave an identifying number on the frame. Without a serial number, police have no way of getting it back to you if the stolen bike has been recovered.
  • Invest in a quality lock – such as a hardened sturdy steel U-shaped lock or a hardened steel chain and padlock.
  • Lock your bike and both wheels to an immovable object that can’t be easily cut or broken.
  • Don’t be an easy target. Park your bike to a secure bike parking structure located in a well-lit, populated area. Never leave your bike unlocked in your garage, balcony, bike cage or in your car.
  • Avoid locking up your bike in the same place several days in a row.
  • Record all the information about your bike – brand, model, style, colour, year, number of speeds, manufacturer, and serial number.

What to do if your bike has been stolen

First, you want to report the crime to the police. Dial your local police number instead of 911 or their emergency number.

Chhina also recommends 529 Garage, which is an app used across Canada and the United States that you can download to your phone. When you register your bike there and, if it’s stolen, an alert goes out to the Project 529 community, which includes more than 400 law enforcement agencies, universities, bike clubs, bike shops from around the world, as well the 529 users. With 529 Garage, instead of a few officers looking into it, a community of thousands are looking for your bike. There has been a 40 per cent drop in bike thefts in Vancouver since 529 Garage launched in 2015. The service also offers a tamper-resistant 529 sticker that you can attach to your bike to deter thieves in the first place.

Also, make sure your home insurance policy is up to date, to include protection for your bike should it be stolen from your property. Speak with your insurance representative about your options.

Disclaimer: This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as legal or insurance advice.