Bicycle Theft

Bike theft is increasingly a problem in Calgary. In 2010, 1,052 bicycles were reported stolen in Calgary.  In 2011, that number rose 13% to 1,191, another 17% to 1,398 in 2012, and a whopping 34% to 1,876 in 2013. Not all thefts are reported: it is estimated that in the U.S. as many as 80% of bike thefts go unreported. The Calgary Police Service recovered 137 bicycles in 2012 as lost or stolen, and 193 in 2013.

Your best defense against bike theft is to lock your bike always, and lock it properly. We have some tips below.

Don't trust that your bicycle isn't worth enough to be attractive to a thief. Many stolen bicycles are just taken for joyrides, traded for cash or drugs, gutted for parts, or used by thieves themselves.  Even a bicycle worth less than $100 can fit the bill if it's easy to steal.

Has Your Bicycle Been Stolen?

If your bicycle has been stolen, do the following:

  • File a police report. If your bicycle has been stolen, the best chance of recovering it is by reporting the theft to the police.
    • If there are suspects or investigative follow-up is required (e.g., if the area where you locked your bike is covered by video surveillance or if there are witnesses), report your stolen bike by calling the Calgary Police Service non-emergency line (403-266-1234) or visit a district office
    • Otherwise, and if your bike was worth less than $5,000, you can report the theft online.  You can also report theft of parts and vandalism using the online system.
  • File a stolen bike report on our site. (You have to be registered & logged in to do that, but it's free and usually quick).
    • We'll tweet your bike report and the Good Life Bike Shop will post it.  Other bike shops may follow suit.
    • You can see all stolen bike reports here and there's an RSS feed of stolen bike reports here.
  • Contact your home/renter's insurance company. Depending on your coverage, deductible, and premium increase if you claim the loss, it may not be worth it, but you should check especially if the bike was expensive.
  • Your bicycle may show up on classifieds listings, so it may be worthwhile to check craigslist, ebay, or or kijiji.
    • You can set up email alerts that match your bike on kijiji.
    • Instructions for setting a Google Alert on Craigslist are here.
  • If you find it offered for sale, do not attempt to recover it yourself: call the police first and ask them what to do.
  • In some cases people have recovered bikes after posting flyers with pictures around the neighborhood.
  • Check out the Good Life's tips, too.

Important information for reporting and recovering your bicycle which you should keep in a safe place, and have on hand when reporting a bike theft:

  • Serial number of your bicycle (usually stamped on the underside of the bottom bracket, and recorded on your sales receipt if the bike was purchased new in a reputable bike shop),
  • Proof of ownership (sales receipt or repair receipts), and
  • Description of bicycle and parts (preferably a photo) -- make, model, colour, any installed accessories or distinguishing marks.

You may also consider registering your bike. Although Calgary Police does not check recovered bicycles against bikerevolution.ca as a matter of course, they may do so in the future, or your bike may end up in another jurisdiction where police do use that site. Calgary Police do use the Stolen Vehicle and Bicycle database of the Canadian Police Information Centre, though, both to record bikes reported stolen and to locate owners of recovered bicycles. (You can use it yourself to make sure you're not buying a stolen bike!)

You should also contact your home owner's or tenant's insurance and inquire about an endorsement for your bicycle(s).

How to Lock a Bike

Fight bike theft by making it more difficult to steal bicycles. If you're going to leave your bike unattended for any period of time, even for just a minute, it should be locked. And if you don't want it stolen, it should be locked properly.

  • Use a secure lock, such as a high-quality U-type lock or a heavy duty chain made from hardened steel. Abus, Kryptonite, and OnGuard are popular and respected brands, and some even offer insurance should your lock be broken.
  • Do not use cables locks (even those sold as bicycle locks in department stores), plain steel chains, and household padlocks found in hardware stores as the only means of securing your bicycle. They can be cut very easily with readily available tools such as wire or bolt cutters and in a matter of seconds. Here's a video of how everything but a high quality U-lock can be cut in seconds using a $14 bolt cutter.
  • Always lock the frame to a stationary object, preferably a bike rack. Don't lock your bike to wooden objects (small trees have ben cut down in Calgary to steal bikes!), street signs that aren't securely bolted to the ground, movable objects, or handrails (that's rude).
  • Make sure that your locked bicycle can't be easily slipped over or under whatever you're locking it to.
  • Keep your bike locked to something even when it's in your garage or backyard! Bicycle theft from garages is very common.
  • A thief may try to steal components such as the saddle, wheels, or handlebars, even if they can't get your entire bike. Use an additional  cable to secure your wheels (and saddle).
  • If you can't find a decent place to lock up your bicycle, talk to building management or contact the city to request a bike rack.

Your trusted local bike dealer can help you select the hardware and show you how to use it. You'll also find lots of info on the internet, e.g., from the SF Bicycle Coalition.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) has issued a long and informative report on all aspects of bicycle theft. It is available here.

Comments? Questions? Post in the Stolen Bike forum.