Now that spring is finally here with summer looming, it’s time to get the bikes out of the garage and, in some cases, leave them out. But don’t become one of the nearly 190,000 people who fall victim to bike theft each year. I’ve had two bikes I loved stolen over the last half dozen years, and nothing feels more hurtful, more personal, than having one of your trusty steeds stolen.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, from 2007 to 2011, bicycle theft in the United States rose on average 14 percent each year, and more than 188,500 bicycle thefts are reported stolen each year in the United States, a statistic even more staggering when one considers the number of bicycle thefts that go unreported.
In San Francisco, the city issued its first-ever official look at bike theft in 2013 and created a goal to reduce bicycle theft in the city by half over the next five years. The city also created a bike registry to help combat the 70 percent rise in bicycle thefts since 2006.
In both Los Angeles and San Diego, law enforcement is placing bait bikes with hidden GPS devices around the city and beach in hopes of catching bike thieves. In Boston, MBTA Transit Police created two life-sized cardboard cutouts of police offers and placed them in busy bike rack cages at Alewife Station.
”It’s amazing how easily a bike can be stolen,” says Audrey Hanken, president of Markel Personal Lines Insurance. “We hear stories about bicycles being stolen from locked bike racks, cars, or even directly outside of their homes. We have also heard about thieves targeting hotels during bicycle road races, looking for opportunities to grab expensive bikes and run.”
Here are six recommended tips to help keep your bike from walking off:
1. Purchase a good lock. No lock can guarantee that a bike won’t get stolen, but the more money that is invested in a good, sturdy lock; the harder it will be for a would-be thief to steal a bike. Bicycle thieves look for the easiest lock to cut when they are look to steal a bike, which makes thin, cheap locks a thief magnet. Two of the more trusted and widely used lock options are a D or U Lock, or a thick cable lock. It is also recommend that cyclists lock both the bike frame and the wheels to the immovable object, so investing in 2 sturdy locks may be another good idea to deter would-be thieves.
2. Always lock the bike. Whether running in for a quick stop or parked outside of a friend’s house, make sure the bicycle is securely locked. This seems simple enough, but many cyclists feel comfortable with their surroundings and, even if only momentarily, let their guard down.
3. Secure the Frame. Ever see a single bicycle wheel locked to a bike rack? When locking the bike up, cyclists should be sure to lock it “steel to steel,” meaning the lock should be around the bicycle frame and the sturdy metal object it is being secured to (like a bicycle rack). In a more secluded area, try to lock the bike around a large sturdy object, like a tree.
4. Lock it in a high-traffic area. Cyclists shouldn’t just look for a well-lit area to secure their bike. Ideally, a bike should be locked in an area with a constant flow of people walking by so a person attempting to steal a bike would be noticed quickly.
5. Register the bike. A bike registry is a great way to record a bicycle’s serial number and/or photo. Many local cycling communities offer a bicycle registration service. Often when bicycles are recovered, local police have a hard time matching it with its owner. Typically, one of the first places they will look to find the bicycle owner is the community’s local registries to try to find a match. There are also national websites where bicycle registrations are gathered – check out the National Bike Registry and BikeRegistry.com.
6. Get insurance for the bike. Bicycles usually have some protection under a homeowner’s or renter’s policy, but typically a homeowner’s policy will not cover a bike if it is stolen from anywhere but insured’s home. Cyclists should look for a stand-alone bicycle insurance policy from a provider such as Markel Bicycle Insurance in which the bicycle would be protected no matter where it was stolen – whether it is from their house or at a bike shop. Markel’s bicycle insurance policy can also be customized to fit any rider and riding style, with coverage options for the rider, the bike and accessories and spare parts. Markel even provides protection during races.
If your bike is does happen to get stolen, call the police immediately. Also check the area where you locked your bike to see if any area business had a security camera to help police identify the thief. And call your bicycle insurance carrier to file a claim for the stolen bike.