Lock it… or lose it.

Ever had your bike stolen? Chance are if you’ve been living in Toronto for any length of time and have owned a bicycle, you may have answered yes. Speaking personally, with well over 25 years of riding a bike in the city I’ve been very lucky have never had one of my bikes stolen. Optimistic thinking, yes… but I’m also very careful about where, when and how I lock up my bikes)

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However… as one who works in the bicycle retail business, we hear it all the time from our customers… “hi, I just got my bike stolen and I’m here to replace it.” And if its not the full bike being stolen, its the lights, the saddles and seat posts, etc. ARRGH!

As recently reported in the Toronto Star this past week, we seem to have a huge crisis for stolen bikes in Toronto with a reported 3,728 gone missing last year. With only 1% of stolen bikes every recovered, I’m curious to know where they all end up? (BTW: Give the article a read, they have also put together a very interesting map showing where in the city most bikes get stolen… you’ll be surprised.)

Furthermore, I’m most certain that the actual number of bikes stolen far exceeds this amount as many people the I speak to never actually report these thefts to the police. When asked why, the standard response is, “why bother, its a low-priority for the police.”

Hearing such thing is both disconcerting and disheartening. When you consider that the average price of urban bikes being sold in the GTA is about $650 to $700, that equates to well over $2.5 million in stolen goods. Not a number to be ignored. When we factor into this, the simple fact and less than 1 in 4 bikes stolen is even properly reported… this number increases exponentially.  Maybe if we thought about the total value of good sold, bike theft may be taken a little more seriously by all… and not just the thieves.

The one area that has been identified where theft is on a huge increase, is at condo and apartment buildings. With an 82% increase from 2014 to 2016 (yikes), it seems that its safe-pickings for thieves to do their “shopping” in the security of one’s underground parking lots and bike lockers. Most frustrating to the bike owner, who is often told by their condo boards that its against the rules to bring bikes up in to their units… but the at the same time being told that the building is not responsible for stolen and damaged property. Having a safe, secure and properly monitored bike lock-up room in a condo or apartment is a must. And if one is not provided… my feeling is that tenants and residents have every right to bring their property into their units for safe-keeping. Truth be told, I’ve never been able to understand the concerns of bringing a bike up an elevator and into one’s apartment. We have no issues with strollers, shopping carts or other such wheeled devices… what’s the problem with a bike? Especially one that could be valued at thousands of dollars.

It frustrates me to no end that bikes get stolen in such high numbers… and yet, there seems to be very little being done about it. Or is there?

First and foremost, with the number of people I speak to having had a bike stolen, it surprises me how little they did to properly ensure their bikes were safely secured. By following a few extra steps, you may never be 100% able to prevent the theft of your bike, but you can certainly increase the odds that your bike remains where you left it.

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If you have to lock your bike up… here are a few tips:

1) Get a good lock. REPEAT… get a good lock. The level of security is dependant on the amount of time you need to lock up your bike, the value of your bike, and where you’ll be locking your bike. I’m a big fan of a solid “U” lock, but there are many good products on the market these days. Don’t undervalue this. Also, make sure that the lock is a tight fit to eliminate any leverage opportunity.

2) Position the lock off the ground with the key hole facing down

3) Lock according to value… frame, back wheel, front wheel. Should you want to secure your wheels, take a look at replacing your quick-release with a locking skewer or similar type of product. Speak to your bike shop staff about the best option for you.

4) Lock your bike in a well-lit and high-traffic area. Out of sight and in the dark is what the thieves are looking for, as it gives them privacy and time to work

5) Lock your bike to an immovable object, and not something that can be cut. You’d be amazed how often I hear, “…but it was locked to the fences… and they cut the fence.” (or similar)

6) Don’t lock you bike on the same place and at the same time every day. Thieves notice patterns and if your bike is seem over and over… it becomes a target because the thieve know it will not be moved (or missed) for some time.

7) Register you lock with the lock’s manufacture. Many have some level of theft protection should the lock be compromised and you may also need to order spare keys.

8) Register your bike and its serial number with the local police. Many bikes that are stolen end up in police warehouses and auctions because the owner did not take the time to do so.

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Keep it safe and secure.