15th June 2012

Eliminating Bicycle Theft in Your City


A number of weeks ago I had my bicycle stolen and managed to find it for sale on Craigslist. I was going to set up a sting operation with the Vancouver Police Department, but timing was not on my side since I was destined for Las Vegas for my birthday. But I did start thinking about bicycle thievery and the bigger picture.

First of all, the primary reason that bicycles are stolen is because people buy stolen bicycles. In my heart of hearts I believe that the average person would not buy a stolen bike. I also believe that, unfortunately, the average person would not perform due diligence to ensure that the bicycle was not stolen. It eases one’s conscience in the event that they find a great deal. It follows with the old saying, “Doors are locked to keep honest people out.”

There is a very simple way to drastically reduce the number of bicycles that are stolen each year. The great thing is, it can be done by a handful of people. It involves just one simple step by sellers and another by the buyers.

If you have a bicycle to sell, you simply put the serial number for the bike in the ad . If you think that this may jeopardize the security of your property you can just not include the last two digits.  If it’s a child’s bike and there isn’t a serial number, use your phone number.  In fact this can be done with many things that would be sold on community boards like Craigslist.

Obviously if the number was filed off you may want to reconsider buying the bicycle.

If you are looking for a bicycle and perusing the for sale section, you have one simple responsibility. Flag the ad if there is no serial number or phone number. If everyone participates, the stolen bikes will be removed, along with the legitimate listings but honest ones will be reposted with serial numbers or phone numbers. If there is an outcry of people angry that their ad was flagged, point them in this direction. I guarantee, in time, there will be virtually no stolen bikes for sale and better yet, fewer bicycles will be stolen.

I am going to spread the word on this idea in my local community. I may even post it to Craigslist. Hopefully those profiting from stolen bicycles won’t flag it, although there are many other forms of social media.

Share this blog with your friends … be the change.

Please make a posting similar to this in the bicycles for sale by owner section in your city.



This article has 23 comments

  1. Saul

    There is big black market for stolen bicycles especialy here in Vancouver and the lower mainland. Such an initiative must be encouraged.
    I once lived in a small town called ” Wythenshawe” in UK. It was the responsibility of every bicycle dealer to keep a record and inventory of the serial number of every new bike that he sold. The dealer was also responsible do do the same if he bought a used bike for resale.

  2. Brandi

    I’m confused. Why couldn’t the thief just post their phone number?

    • Angelo

      … I suppose they could (and do) but it certainly makes them easier to catch, so they usually don’t.

  3. Saul

    The thieves can easily change their SIMCARDS but they can not change the serial number on the bike.
    When my bike was stolen 3 weeks ago I asked the police if I can make a “citizen’s arrest” if I see anyone riding my bike. I was told, ” No you can’t, because the person riding your bike might have bought it from someone else!!!!!!” This is the reason why the seller must declare the serial number to the buyer. You’re committing a crime if you sell a stolen item, period.

  4. diego

    somebody stole my bike inside the garage of my building, its a gray jamie x2 size 17

  5. Saul

    Mine was stolen in an underground garage where there were several bicycles for other residents too. Why my bike was picked among the 3 bikes that I own is obvious. The stole my customised cyclocross and left behind my humbly priced Walmart and Zellers bicycles. I think at least one bike is stolen on a daily basis here in vancouver and the lower mainland. We should really start to brainstorm and come up with solutions on how we should weed out this problem.

  6. Ex-bike thief

    5 steps to avoid losing your precious bicycle.

    1. Lock it. If it worth not losing lock it up, even its inside somewhere ‘safe’ like an underground garage in your building or in storage
    2. Keep it inside your place at all times
    3. Avoid locking it outside. If you have to lock it outside, do so where there a lots of people traffic, use a quality lock and don’t leave there for long.
    4. Buy and use a cheap bike from Cdn Tire/Sportchek/Sears. If its worth $100, its not worth stealing.
    5. Buy a quality lock. Some locks can be broken quite quickly and easily.

  7. BikeMike

    My highly customized tourer was stolen over the weekend from a locked bike cage behind two sets of garage doors. And it was locked with a U-lock. Doesn’t stop professional thieves 🙁

    Question on finding your bike on Craigslist – how did you find it? I really want my ride back as it has huge sentimental value for me…

    • Angelo

      I just went through all the postings until I found it, it’s a long and arduous task.

  8. BikeMike

    How long was it between when it was stolen and when it showed up on Craigslist?

  9. Saul

    I will be interested too to know how long it takes for the bike to show up on Craiglist because I have been visiting Craiglist since May 30th 2012, the day I noticed that my bike was stolen.
    I do not know which lock is the best the fact that these thieves carry cutting tools with them.

    • Angelo

      Hi Saul, That is so hard to say. Some rings even load them up in trucks and take them to other markets. That’s why it’s important to flag ads that don’t have a serial number or phone number EVERYWHERE. Of course it would also help to post a link to this article whenever and wherever you can to get the word out.

  10. brandon

    my friends ladies Nirve cruiser was stolen a few days ago. its black, cheetah print, and baige. do u know where i can go to look for it? any skechie second hand stores? pls let me know where i can look. hope the bike isnt lost forever.

    • Angelo

      Sorry to hear that Brandon, I would use the search function on craigslist and kijiji using key words like “nirve”, “;cheetah” etc. All the best.
      I hope you participate by flagging ads that don’t have a serial number or phone number as well as posting a link to this article whenever you can to get the word out.

  11. C-los

    @ brandon about the bike you said was stolen. My girlfriedn and I have been looking for bikes on CL for the past three weeks. Last night we ran across a bike similar to the one you mentioned. Aftert seeing your post I went back to find it and I have the link. I hope this will help you recover your bike.

  12. JRR

    I had my ASAMA stolen 5days after my 1st move to the city of Vancouver.(1998)
    What a introduction!

    • Angelo

      Sorry to hear that … I’ve had three stolen in this city so far. I’m sure that things can change with a co-operative effort.

  13. JRR

    “Flag the add if there is no serial number or phone number”

    ? ? ? ? ? ? ? / ?/ !

    there could be other reasons why a SELLER will NOT post a phone number on the OPEN Internet.!

    2 many Sheep flagging adds based solely upon “SUSPICION”.


    • Angelo

      I understand your point. A phone number is not necessary, although verifiable identification of the bicycle would help. The intention is not to demonize. I would like to see some accountability in an anonymous marketplace. I agree, communication is paramount. How do you suggest people improve communication?

  14. Redex

    Goodluck on getting craigslist/kijiji to standardize this~! Id help a lot of & many people. And, the more people that flag postings without serial numbers & the more that this website & idea stands out to craigslist/kijiji , the better~!

    Thanks for creating this site, I hope that your idea gets noticed, & is used by craigslist/kijiji as a standard. ^_^

  15. Redex

    Hallo Angelo,

    Ive been looking through all the ads on craigslist/kijiji since my bike was stolen..and even went to the police about it. Unfortunatly, nothing has turned up yet..I got my bike from my Dad, so I’d really would like it back, and hope that I can get it back. =(

    Good idea about the serial number though. A thief wouldnt want to post the serial number selling a bike because then that makes them so much easier to find, and makes the bike easy to distinguise that it is indeed yours. Even if someone did not have the serial number for the bike, how would the thief know? So the thief still wouldn’t want to post the serial number, because of the fact it makes them so much easier to find to get your bike back.

    I was just thinking about something similar to this as well before I saw your article too. Why not take this further & have this type of protection on everything so that nothing can be stolen? It helps a lot to have a serial number, so why not have it on other things? My parents had a break & entry 2 years ago at our place, and the police didn’t exactly do much about it because we never got any of our items that were stolen back. In that, I lost $1000 myself from my laptop that was stolen, and my parents around $150 from our ps2 being stolen, and other things. I had the serial number for my laptop, but it still didn’t help, and no one replied to any inquiries I had about laptops for sale..

    If anyone wants to help out with my bike, I have a posting here:
    Any help would be very appriciated, thanks ^_^

  16. Ashish

    What a great Idea. I am sharing this in Bangalore India and will ask other groups to do so 🙂
    Thank you

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