‘Like a currency on the street’: Bike thefts continue pandemic rise in Calgary

More Calgarians are using Bike Index, as registry triples city use in 2020

Mohammad Ahad cycling along the Bow River Pathway in Calgary on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Ahad has his bike insured due to theft but plans on registering his bike. JAYSON BLACK KETTLE / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Mohammad Ahad bikes daily through downtown Calgary to get to work and he carries the same fear many cyclists have during the pandemic.

It’s not necessarily about getting the virus.

Bike thefts continued to rise in 2020, according to the Calgary Police Service (CPS), as their cache grew with people wanting to get outdoors.

“I’m worried every day that my bike will get stolen,” said Ahad.

Last summer, the CPS partnered with non-profit organization Bike Index to keep a register of bicycles in Calgary.

Ahad has insured his bike to protect against thieves, but he hadn’t heard of Bike Index. He plans to look into the registry.

Bike Index representative Bryan Hance said that there’s been an increase in bike thefts every year since their 2012 inception.

“But last year was totally special,” said Hance.

Obviously, the pandemic was a contributing factor in bike thefts.

“A lot of people took to the streets to go biking because there’s nothing else to do,” said Hance.

Bike sales went up but markets couldn’t keep up with the demand. That led to a shortage of bikes. Thieves are reselling the bikes at higher prices due to the shortage, Hance said.

Demand is high, supply is low: CPS

Sergeant Brennan Vanderwater of the CPS said there was at least a 10 per cent increase in bike thefts during the first nine months last year.

“They’re being resold, they’re being parted out, they’re traded, they’re like a currency on the street,” said Vanderwater.

“Demand is high and supply is low… asking prices are higher for used stuff and I think thieves are unfortunately benefitting from that.”

CPS registered 15,420 bikes in Calgary, Vanderwater noted. That’s an increase of 3,000 since November.

In Calgary, Bike Index registered 115 bikes in 2018. That increased to 450 in 2019. In 2020, they registered 1,279 bikes.

CPS saw success in recovering bikes using Bike Index.

“Since we’ve launched with them, we’ve had 169 recoveries,” said Vanderwater. The doesn’t include bikes that aren’t registered with Bike Index, he noted.

CPS managed to recover 14 of those bikes in a single day back in September.

“I think the supplement of having Bike Index is shown, it’s increased our [recovery] numbers,” said Vanderwater.

Protecting your investment

Bikes are obviously increasing in cost, said Vanderwater. That’s why Calgarians should be doing what they can to keep their wheels safe.

“You should be investing in the best possible lock and security system that you can afford,” said Vanderwater.

Vanderwater notes that thieves target bike cages.

“I would always recommend if you can keep your bike in the house or in a very secure garage or in your apartment, that’s the best place for it,” he said.

Calgarian Justin Gundlock, had his own bike stolen while he was grabbing a pizza on Sunday, March 28.

He was going into a pizza place downtown, where he left his bike unlocked outside.

It was a takeout order that he was going to grab and leave when he saw someone get on his bike and leave.

“I would never have thought that somebody would just walk right up and steal it with people that close by,” said Gundlock.

Gundlock managed to follow the thief to an apartment building; however, there was nothing the CPS could do.

He noted they could not search any of the units without knowing what unit the thief hid the bike in.

“I get that they can only do so much,” said Gundlock.

Gundlock immediately registered his bike with Bike Index with the information he had. He also posted his bicycle on several social media sites.

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