Edmonton cyclists and police tout success of city's bike registration program

·4 min read
A volunteer explains to a biker how to register her wheels with Bike Index. (Dennis Kovtun/CBC - image credit)
A volunteer explains to a biker how to register her wheels with Bike Index. (Dennis Kovtun/CBC - image credit)

Cyclists and the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) are touting the success of a bike registration program introduced to the city three years ago.

The program, run by an American non-profit called Bike Index, is an online database of bicycles that encompasses almost the entirety of Canada and the United States.

Since the program began in July 2019, 657 lost or stolen bikes have been returned to their rightful owners and just shy of 100,000 Edmontonians have registered their bicycles, according to EPS.

Coreen Shewfelt, a workshop manager with Bike Edmonton, said that most cyclists in Edmonton have been affected by bike thefts, either by having experienced it themselves or knowing somebody who had their bike stolen.

She said some people in Edmonton would like to use their bikes more often, but for some of them bike thefts pose a barrier.

Before the partnership launched, an average of 50 to 100 bicycles were recovered and returned to their owners each year, EPS spokesperson Landis Reichle said in an email.

The registration begins when an owner lists the serial number, make, model and colour of their bike in the online database. They can also add a photo and any other information that could make their ride easier to identify if it is lost or stolen.

The owner may also request a sticker with a QR code to put on their bike.

When we were able to return this bike and notify the owner, she just cried on the phone. - Det. Dana Gehring

Using the online database is easy, said Bryan Hance, the co-founder of Bike Index.

"There is nothing to install. There is no app. You just pick up the phone [and] you can use it immediately," he said.

It takes less than five minutes to learn how the system works, Hance said.

If someone's bike is stolen, law enforcement will know what it looks like and that it belongs to a person who reported the theft.

The registration system works well, said Const. Kenny McKinnon.

When the program first began, EPS had a stockpile of unclaimed abandoned or stolen bikes that the officers called "the bike graveyard," McKinnon said.

"And we'd get nothing for months, sometimes years on them, and they would eventually either end up going to scrap or off to the auction, because we can't hold on to them forever," McKinnon said.

Only about 10 per cent of owners had the serial number of their bike written down, said McKinnon. He said it was difficult for police to return stolen bikes to their owners.

Since the adoption of the bike registry, the "graveyard" has been cleared out.

While the proportion of bikes sold or scrapped has increased over the past four years, the main indicator of the program's success, in the view of EPS, is the large decline of stolen bikes that had to be moved into police storage in the first place, as the owners can now be swiftly identified and their bikes can be returned to them without delay.

About three weeks ago, Det. Dana Gehring and McKinnon came across a bike being sold on Facebook.

"We were able to use Bike Index to identify the original owner, and the bike had been stolen, missing for two and a half years," Gehring said.

"The bike's value was somewhere in the area of $8,000. When we were able to return this bike and notify the owner, she just cried on the phone. She was pretty grateful for the program and the police work behind it to get the bike to her," he said.

Earlier this week, cyclist Jennifer Klein was quite eager to get her bike registered.

As she was riding past a registration tent in Constable Ezio Faraone Park on Monday afternoon, she came to a halt.

"We have five bikes in our family, and I had already registered a couple," Klein said. She had the volunteers check if the one she was riding was registered, and it turned out that it wasn't.

"I haven't gotten around to it, so I'm glad I finally got around," she said.

Klein said everybody needs to have their bikes registered.

"Bikes can go missing anytime," she said. "It's a nice way to get it picked up right away."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting