Amanda Blaney has given up on owning a bicycle in Fredericton.
Last summer, the single mother of two purchased a bike for more than $300 with the intent of using it to spend time with her children while improving her health following treatment for thyroid cancer.
On Sept. 18, she walked around to the side of her building to find the bike she'd purchased only three weeks earlier was taken. Someone cut the lock securing it to the fire escape.
"My bike was a way to start being able to get out again, getting out of my space, getting out with my two kids and something that I could do with them, so … that was taken away."
The report Blaney filed with the Fredericton Police Force turned out to be one of 197 police received in all of 2021. It represents almost a doubling of 2020's total of 107 reported bike thefts, according to statistics the force provided.
The statistics also show the number of reported bike thefts had already been on the rise for the previous four years, rising from 78 in 2016 to 101 in 2019.
For 2022 so far, the force has already received 33 reports of bike thefts.
A worsening problem
Blaney said the bike stolen last September was the third she'd had taken from her yard since moving to the building seven years ago.
With no room in her apartment, locking them up outside is the only option, she said, adding that one of the three bikes was actually swiped from a locked shed.
While she said bike theft has been an issue for years, the spike in the number of reports for 2021 reflects an increase in complaints she's heard from her neighbours about stolen bikes.
"I definitely noticed in, like, that Devon community group online again today, there was two or three more people who had talked about bikes being stolen from them within the last couple of days," she said, referring to a neighbourhood Facebook group.
"It seems to be an almost everyday occurrence."
Blaney said she thinks the issue might be linked to drug addiction, with thieves stealing bikes and selling them to support their addiction.
She said she's not sure what the police can do about the issue, as bicycles can be difficult to track once stolen.
She said police told her she had close to zero chance of recovering her bike as she hadn't registered its serial number with them.
CBC News asked the Fredericton Police Force about why bike thefts have been increasing and what it was doing to combat the problem, but did not receive an interview by publishing time.
A boom in sales, a boom in thefts
The COVID-19 pandemic brought on a wave of demand for outdoor equipment in 2020 with people eager to exercise outdoors.
Bicycles were no exceptions and could be part of the reason why there are more being stolen, said Brian McKeown, co-owner of the Radical Edge bike shop in Fredericton.
"Everybody wanted to be on a bike, so lots more bikes out there and a lot more opportunities for thieves to do grabs and get these bikes and do whatever they're doing with them," McKeown said.
McKeown said the shop gets customers every year who share stories of having their bikes stolen.
He said a common story is someone left their bike unattended and unlocked in their yard or garage, and returned to find it missing.
That's what happened to Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold, who had her Trek e-bike stolen sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning.
If it's sitting there throughout the night, it's probably not going to be there in the morning.
- Brian McKeown, co-owner, Radical Edge
"My bike … was stolen out of our garage last night (sometime between 10:45pm and 7 am)," said Arnold, on Facebook.
"If anyone has any clues or has seen it anywhere (Trek Verve 3+, turquoise) please let me know. I've called the RCMP and luckily I'm registered with 529 Garage - Codiac with serial [number]. Our garage was unfortunately and mistakenly left wide open last night."
McKeown said even for those who had their bike locked up, the quality of the lock was usually a factor in it getting stolen.
"Those inexpensive locks are just that, and they're pretty easy to cut or get through or open up, so, you know, spend the money, get a good quality lock if you value your bike."
McKeown said he also recommends not leaving a bike outside overnight, even if it's locked.
"If it's sitting there throughout the night, it's probably not going to be there in the morning."