As a Spring reminder to properly lock your bicycle frame and wheels, the University of Wisconsin Madison Police just took down a professional ring of bike thieves and recovered 592 bicycles. Sadly, many of them nicer bikes that have been stripped down to bare frames. As bike geeks, we understand the personal connection that can develop with our favorite traveling companion, so please remember to lock up, no exceptions.
The other side of bike theft is selling the stolen bike. Thieves often try to fence the stolen bike back to a local bike shop and the shop. When someone comes in trying to sell a bike that doesn’t look like it fits them or with a suspicious story, the shop owners haven’t had any place other than Facebook pages or local Craigslist to check if the bike was reported stolen. We have heard from a few shops that it would be helpful if the Bike Fed could maintain a public web-based registry of stolen bikes so shops have a one-stop place to check.
In response to that request, the Bike Fed has added a bike registry page to our website. You can find it by clicking on the Stolen Bike Listing link in the upper right menu bar of our site. See the green circle and arrow in the image below. We also encourage everyone to register their bike. Thanks also to Bike Fed member Sam Dodge for pushing us to do this.
Once on the stolen bike registry page, you can view a list of bicycles reported stolen. You can also search and sort the list using a number of filters. The registry is part of an international database provided by BikeIndex.org, so the database is good for anywhere in Wisconsin, or the US. Shops were very clear that this was an important feature and we shouldn’t create our own private database. This also allows shops in other parts of the state or country to check to see if a bike was reported stolen elsewhere, because sometimes bike theft rings move bikes to sell in other cities.
Hopefully you will never need to register and report your bike stolen in our database, but we encourage you to register your bikes now anyway. The system allows you to register bikes that are not stolen, simply by clicking on the center blue button on the add a bike page. The button changes to red if you are just trying to register a bike that was not stolen. This makes it a lot easier to report in the case that your bike is stolen, because it is a lot easier to enter the serial number, model, size, etc., when you have the bike in front of you.
We are also considering offering our sustaining members at the $10/month level and above a bonus benefit of $100 toward your insurance deductible in the case your bike is stolen and not recovered. We understand most people have larger deductibles than $100, but it might help take some of the sting out of being ripped off. We looked into using outside insurance providers for this, but it was too expensive. Instead we would self insure. Stay tuned for more on that after we runs some numbers past our actuarial friends.
The other things the Bike Fed is doing to help reduce bike theft is we have partnered with University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department and other around the state to provide information on how to avoid common bike theft patterns. Highlights from what we’ve tested or learned include the bike bait program, education to students and citizens about documenting serial numbers of bikes with the help of cell phone cameras, promoting other existing bike registration, down to the simple act of putting your name and contact info in the bar ends of your handlebars.