Tag Archive: stolen bikes

Free bike registration program aims to safeguard San Francisco bikes

I was more than a little alarmed to read the statistics for stolen bikes in San Francisco. In 2012, one bike was stolen every three hours. Over 4,000 bikes were stolen in that year alone. And of the bikes that were recovered (about 850), less than 17% of bikes found their way back home. So many lonely bikes and wheel-less bikers!


Thankfully a new and free bike registry — SAFE Bikes — aims to improve those numbers. According to a recent update from the SF Examiner, a San Francisco police advisory board and safe-streets advocates are launching the free registration program this month to help reunite bikers with stolen bikes. The SAFE Bikes program allows riders to register a bicycle’s serial number, make/model, and color into a secure database that’s connected to the police department. The owner will receive a unique and permanent ID tag to place on the frame. If a registered bike is ever stolen and recovered, SAFE will identify the bike and contact the owner.


A quick survey of some of my fellow San Francisco bike commuters (ok, a group of friends at a dinner party) reveals that not a-one has registered his or her bike. That goes for me, too. This particular group of riders use bikes as a main form of transportation around the city, and we’re not naive—we are well aware of the dangers, even of just leaving your beloved bike locked up in front of a bar while you run inside for a quick pint of Pliny the Younger.

When I asked my cycling cohorts why they had never registered their bikes, the most cited obstacles included “hassle,” “cost,” and the belief that registering a bike “wouldn’t make a difference.”

But I believe SAFE bikes will go a long way to overcome these registration issues. In fact, I’m leading the way––I’ve registered my bike. And it was easy!

Is your bike registered? If so, what program have you registered with? Does it provide you peace of mind?

Also, side note, SAFE has a great graphic showing the best method for locking up your bike. Check it out.

Bicycles languish in police warehouse

Here’s a story that caught our eye recently…from the San Francisco Chronicle, a story about stolen bicycles and the sprawling police warehouse that stores the recovered ones:

There are rows of mountain bikes, road bikes, rusted clunkers, fat-tired cruisers, fancy carbon fiber, and new and old frames of every color.

The cycling cache, which recently stood at more than 800, is the fruit of the San Francisco Police Department’s labor – the bicycles were recovered in stings, raids, stakeouts and chop shop busts – yet none of the bicycles has been claimed.

The problem, according to Officer Matt Friedman, the department’s point man on bicycle theft, is that there’s no way to find the rightful owners.

Read the full article by visiting the SFGate page.

A couple things in the article left me shaking my head:

1) Do bike owners really not write down their serial numbers or take photos of their two-wheeled friends? If you don’t, you really should. In fact, go and do it RIGHT NOW. Having a serial number and a couple of photos helps tremendously in recovering stolen bicycles…how else might you prove that the bike is yours if you manage to locate it?

2) In the article, the author states, “…no coordinated bicycle registry program exists that officers could refer to when they recover a bike.” Does no one use the National Bike Registry anymore? The NBR is cheap (about a dollar a year per bike) and from what I’ve heard, pretty effective. It’s the big kid on the block in terms of bike registry; there are others, including ones done locally, but the NBR is really the one that should spring to mind for anyone looking to protect their bike/recover a lost or stolen one.

We’ve written about bike security a bit over the years. Take a look at our articles:

Lock Considerations (the comments are a treasure trove of good info)

Wheel Security

Stolen Bike! (my own story)

Not even we who post about biking are immune to the horrors that plague the bike world – like getting your bike stolen! In my case, it happened right out from under my nose (literally) just outside my apartment window…. and I think that’s what shocks me most of all.

After a morning in the dentist’s chair, I came home to relax. I planned to go back out – on my bike- in just a bit, so I did what I usually do and left my bike propped against the wall (fully visible from my window)… and yes….. unlocked. I was going to need the bike later in the day to finish off a League of American Bicyclists Traffic Safety 101 course I had enrolled in. (In my humble defense about the lack of locking the bike, I supposedly to live within a secured gated apartment complex and my back door and back deck are not visible to ANY passersby. Yet… somehow the thieves got in and got to my bike.) Now there goes my sense of security… 🙁

Stolen from outside my home

I always approached my cycling life with the full realization that my bike could be stolen, and I purposely rode a bike that I felt “comfortable” locking outdoors in the theft-prone urban environment. I never expected the thieves to find me at home, which leaves me feeling more vulnerable and shell-shocked than ever.

Since realizing what happened, I have filed a police report, posted the theft to Craigslist and Chicago’s Stolen Bike Registry (I’m not the only theft lately!), posted the theft to several local blog sites known in Chicago (The Chainlink and Everyblock), and reached out to friends in the biking community. I’m pleased we are a small and supportive group.

Luckily, just a couple of months ago after giving a bike safety seminar at work for colleagues, I did record my bike’s serial number and registered it with the city (and affixed a pretty green registration sticker on my seat tube down near the bottom bracket).

Happy times with Toro

When I called the police, the officer completely sympathized with my loss – something I hadn’t expected – and the officer was also very pleased to hear that I had the serial number and knew my bike’s distinguishing features. Of course I did! It’s MY bike. If you value your bike, I suggest you get your bike’s serial number on file and make notes of what sets it apart from other bikes out there.

In my case… the thieves left behind a trail of accessories from my bike… scattered down my alleyway, including the u-lock and reflective triangle that hung from the rear rack. But they aren’t getting the wheels off unless they have the right tool for my bike’s locking skewers….

Now on to the identifying features of my bike:
* Schwinn Worldsport small frame (only 49cm at most)
* full fenders – front fender mounted back behind brakes
* bullhorn bars on a short raised stem
* pink handlebar tape (which may not still be there)
* bar end shifter on right of bars
* aftermarket Chainboard brand chainguard
* front pink/black Fyxation tire
* wheels were connected via locking skewers
* green sticker on seat tube (down near bottom bracket)- as being registered with the City Of Evanston

Toro's pink front tire!

As with most losses, the value is not in the item stolen, but in the sentiment attached to it. This bike has the efforts of my friends in it who helped her become what she is, including a pink saddle from our very own Jack “Ghost Rider” and the fitting and customizations of my mechanically inclined friends. In case I’ve never told you, I do thank you for making Toro so special to me.

On to recovery… if you have any leads, drop me a line at elizabeth [ at ] bikecommers [ dot ] com

How do you prevent your bike from being stolen?

The obvious answer would be a lock, but sometimes that’s not enough. I recently heard a talk radio segment on the local AM station talking about how the reporter’s bike was stolen in about 10 minutes from the time he parked it.

Listen to it HERE.

One of the things I used to do was use U-locks and secure my front wheel with the rear wheel and frame. I then would take an old bicycle chain place it in an old tube, and secure my seat rail to the bike frame to prevent someone from taking it. Fortunately where I now work, I can simply place my bike in our warehouse.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions in making sure your bike is still at the racks when you get off work or walk out of the grocery store?