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Bike-registration project sees dramatic drop in bike theft in Vancouver

Joe Robinson
30 Oct 2018

City sees 30% drop in bike theft thanks to new scheme in three years

With one bike stolen every six minutes in the UK and a total of 21,745 bikes going missing in London in 2017 alone, bike theft is a steadily-increasing issue troubling cyclists. 

Look further and you notice a quarter of a million bikes went missing across the UK in the past three years with insurance companies paying out £22 million in claims in the process.

Additionally, with less police dispatched to the streets and budgets stretched, the chance of bike theft dropping in the UK any time soon is unlikely. That is unless it adopts the approach of Vancouver, across the Atlantic in Canada.

Through a joint initiative run by the Vancouver Police Department, City of Vancouver and Project 529, bike theft has reduced by 30% in the last three years thanks to the development of the world's largest bicycle registration programme having increased 69% in the three years prior to the project.

By registering more than 800,000 bikes within the city, the Project 529 app has created a database which makes bikes identifiable for local police forces and bike shops to firstly help deter theft and also increase the return of any bikes that do become stolen.

This has seen the Vancouver Police Department return almost one bike a day to its owner since the initiative began, with the scheme now being rolled out to 35 municipalities and 100 bicycle shops in the area. 

It's also been effective enough to have relocated and recovered bikes that had been taken to as far as Portland and San Francisco across the American border.

The scheme has been such a success that it has caught the attention of the World Bank which has approached Project 529 and the Vancouver Police Department to combat the growing issue of bike theft in Bogota, Colombia and then further to Brazil and Chile. 

'Vancouver is recognised as a world leader in targeting bike crime,' said William Moose, a consultant for The World Bank.

'The World Bank looked into Vancouver when researching the global best practices in fighting bike theft and used the services of one of VPD’s own and 529 to advise the City of Bogota on its bicycle security strategy.'

If the scheme proves popular in Bogota, helping to decrease bike theft, it could prompt the programme to be introduced among a wider range of developing cities across South America and beyond, the likes of which usually rely on bike transport as opposed the cars or public transport.

As for the UK, the adoption of a bike-registration scheme that effectively eases the job of an already-stretched police force could be a solution to firstly help reduce theft but also increase the number of people riding in the first place with the decreased worry of having their bike stolen.

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