Bicycle thefts soar in the summer. Here’s where they often occur

Click to play video: 'Bicycle thefts hit record high in Toronto'
Bicycle thefts hit record high in Toronto
WATCH: Bicycle thefts hit record high in Toronto – Apr 5, 2021

Alison Stewart doesn’t know any cyclist that hasn’t had their bike stolen at some point, herself included.

The director of advocacy and public policy at Cycle Toronto – a cycling advocacy and charity organization – said it’s a “heartbreaking” experience many cyclists know too well.

That’s why when a new report emerged earlier this week revealing the scale of bike thefts across Canada, Stewart wasn’t surprised.

“Bicycle theft is a perennial issue … On the various bike (social media) channels and groups, you’ll come across someone having their bike stolen at least on a weekly basis,” Stewart said.

“There’s a certain level of expectation from many cyclists that at some point, your bike is going to be stolen.”

Click to play video: 'Police investigating violent Vancouver e-bike theft caught on camera'
Police investigating violent Vancouver e-bike theft caught on camera

The report, compiled by insurance company Square One Insurance Services, showed bicycle thefts jump 429 per cent in the summer versus winter, with most thefts occurring at people’s residential property.

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Square One said the data came from police forces in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. 

It said while not every police department reported theft locations in the same way, or at all, Square One amalgamated the reported locations from which bikes were stolen.

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‘I’ve seen a lot more bikes on the bike rack’: Calgary students weld new bike racks to help prevent theft

Out of the roughly 75,000 reported thefts from 2016 to 2022 in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto, the most common theft locations included residential property, parks and streets and commercial property.

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Almost half of the thefts took place at home, including frequent thefts from inside sheds or garages. Vancouver was the only city where that didn’t apply, with bicycles commonly reported stolen from streets or parks, Square One said.

“Bicycle theft out and about is very much a crime of opportunity,” said Stefan Tirschler, director of product and underwriting at Square One. “It’s someone who is of the mind to take a bicycle notices one that’s convenient and easy to remove in a location where others aren’t going to notice them doing it.”

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How to protect your bike

While more attention is being paid to bike thefts, there are steps one can take to protect their bicycle from being stolen.

First is investing in a good lock, such as a U-lock and even a secondary lock for the bike.

“If you have a simple, narrow-gauge chain lock, a pair of folding bolt cutters in a backpack could be all it takes to liberate your bicycle from a bike stand,” Tirschler said.

“Whereas if you have a solid lock … those can provide much greater protection because they take a lot more time to defeat, increasing the chance that someone will be noticed doing it, which reduces the likelihood that they will try.”

Click to play video: 'Bike thefts in Winnipeg'
Bike thefts in Winnipeg

Stewart also suggests cyclists keep the paperwork they get when buying their bike and that they take photos of the bike. Owners should make sure their bike has identifying marks on it and register it with the police. When locking up their bike, cyclists should choose a rack that is securely fastened to the ground or a building.

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If a bike is stolen, both Stewart and Tirschler suggest the owner file a report with the police so they can note the occurrence. Tirschler also suggests contacting their home insurance provider to claim the loss, if they have appropriate coverage.

Cities have role to play as well

While those are steps individuals can take, cycling is becoming a main method of transportation for many Canadians. As cities build infrastructure on roads for cyclists, municipalities have a role to play when it comes to safe parking infrastructure as well, Stewart suggests.

“Many people who live in apartments and even in condos don’t necessarily have a safe place to secure their bike … I’ve heard so many stories of people who park their bike in the space of their condo. Even with the presence of specific bike parking, with security cameras, their bikes are not entirely safe,” she said.

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Click to play video: 'Bicycle thefts spiking in Peterborough amid coronavirus pandemic'
Bicycle thefts spiking in Peterborough amid coronavirus pandemic

Stewart said municipalities should explore replacing some on-street parking spots with bike pods in which residents can store their bikes with a lock and key.

“There’s all sorts of different opportunities and innovations that the city can explore to help ensure that bike theft becomes less of the widespread issue that it is,” she added.

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Boat, bikes stolen in Coldstream theft captured on video

Tirschler, who is based in Vancouver, said he’s noticing bike parking infrastructure starting to pop up near transit hubs and places of work.

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“On one hand, the public entity is recognizing that this usage is there … and at the same time on the private side, you see private-sector landlords who are doing the same thing for tenants of their buildings, realizing that people want to bike to work,” he said.

“There’s definitely a shared role to play and it’s really encouraging to see that shared role is being played.”

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