Grace Lamas loves riding her bike. She uses it for exercise and for errands. But on July 29 at 6:30 p.m., the Calgary woman stepped into the Winners at North Hill Centre to pick up a few things. In the half hour that she was inside, someone took her bike that had been locked outside.
“I was super sad. I was like ‘Where is my bike?’ Even the lock was gone too,” said Lamas on Saturday.
She had bought the bike new six years ago and still had the the receipt and serial number. So she was able to take the number and register the bike with the Bike Index, a free online bike registration service.
“That night I went home I registered my bike,” Lamas said.
The Calgary Police Service partnered with Bike Index in a pilot project last year.
According to the CPS website they had “considerable success using Bike Index as an added investigative tool for officers who had recovered stolen bikes,”
In May of this year alone officers returned over $12,000 worth of bikes to Calgarians with the help of Bike Index.
“The concern about bike theft is actually one of the barriers to people using their bikes to ride to work, to ride to the store, that sort of thing,” Gary Millard, the president of Bike Calgary, said. “So over the last several years Bike Calgary has worked actively with the city of Calgary and Calgary police service to try to address that.”
While bike thefts have always been an issue in Calgary, police say they have seen a growing trend in the crime in the city in the last few years. Millard said this summer there has been a steady stream of posts on the Bike Calgary website from theft victims.
“There is definitely a higher demand for bicycles these days as people are more interested in cycling,” he said.
“So that has created the demand for bikes on the market, which of course creates the demand for bike theft.”
On average, about 2,900 bikes were reported stolen to the CPS each year between 2015 and 2018, with a return rate of only around 12 per cent of those recovered. The problem is officers require owners to supply their bike’s serial number and many owners don’t have that.
The president of Bike Calgary says the Bike Index will not only help reunite cyclists with their stolen bikes but also reduce likelihood of them being sold on second-hand sites.
“When you are buying a used bike, you check the online registry and it makes it much easier to make sure are are not buying a stolen bike and making it profitable to steal bikes,” Millard said.
The theft of her bike has made Lamas more leery about leaving cycles unattended in the future, but she’s optimistic her two wheeled transportation will turn up.
“I also saw in the in a Facebook group that the police have returned three bikes now since I posted so I am hoping the police can find it,” Lamas said.