Bikers beware: city known for theft of two-wheelers

Concordia’s security department and Tandem Montreal were plugged in and hooked up Tuesday to the engraving pen as they got down to the job of engraving bikes. Students were invited to bring their bikes for engraving and to pick up information on how to protect against bike theft.

Concordia’s security department and Tandem Montreal were plugged in and hooked up Tuesday to the engraving pen as they got down to the job of engraving bikes. Students were invited to bring their bikes for engraving and to pick up information on how to protect against bike theft.

It was a dollar short and a day late for Concordia student Patricia Gold. Last week Gold went outside the SGW building to find the rear brake line on her BMX Giant bike cut, a missing seat, a crack on her helmet (which was U-chained to the bike and rack) and a wobbly rear wheel. Gold figured someone tried in vain to steal the BMX, found it super-locked, and gave it a few good solid kicks out of spite.

The 30 year-old Gold thought that by locking her bike outside the SGW building on McKay it would be relatively safe.

“It was just heartbreaking,” she said, shrugging. “Bike racks were a good idea where one could safely lock their bikes,” she adds. “Today, you must find a spot where others are not likely to steal your bike. In other words, hide the bike.”

There are so many bike theft horror stories in and around Montreal that not only is the city known as the Nation’s car theft capital but soon as the bike theft capital. Even montreal.com warns tourists that bike theft is endemic in our city and goes one step further to recommend specialty kryptonite U-locks.

Gold considers herself lucky. She repaired her bike, but an estimated 3,500 bicycles are stolen in Montreal each year, and according to the National Bike Registry (NBR) many of these thefts go unreported.

Bike theft is not just endemic to Montreal, but is also rising across Canada. In 2004, the RCMP unofficially reported 3 million thefts. The NBR in Canada estimates that police agencies only hear about one-third of the bike stolen each year, and recovers only three per cent.

The few bikes that are recovered by the police end up at auctions because identification is impossible.

So what to do?

The director of Tandem, Ville Marie West, Helen Angelopoulos suggests engraving as the first step. “Bikes are easy to steal and easy to resell,” she said. “Engraving is a deterrent to many thieves, because when one tries to sell a bike at a pawn shop proof of ownership is required.”

Angelopoulos admits that even with engraving there is not a high incidence of retrieving a stolen bike.

“Engraving is a tool we offer to the public, because in many cases when a bike is found the police cannot find the owner. But if your bike is found and it is engraved there is a chance that it might find its way back to you.”

Other suggestions include locking your bike in an area that is very busy and well lit. Stay vigilant and always lock your bike with a good lock and in the right way. “Sometimes people lock their bikes with cheap locks or they don’t even lock their bikes at all,” Angelopoulos said. “There is no one perfect solution but engraving helps.”

Chris X, who reported his stolen bike on a web site called stolen bike registry, said he left his bike out front of his apartment, inside a courtyard. “I thought it’d be safe and out of view, but obviously I was wrong. I was only able to lock up the front wheel because of the unique shape of the frame.”

Gold has already engraved her repaired bike and now locks her bike to the parking meters. “If you keep putting your bike on that rack they’ll come back with some new invention to cut your lock. You can no longer use that rack because the person who did this may very well do it again, but worse.”

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