Thirty percent drop in bike theft thanks to app: VPD

Laura Johnston / October 30, 2018

To mark the start of Bike to Work Week, the Vancouver Police announced that a smartphone app called Project 529 helped them to reduce bicycle theft by 30 percent since 2015.

The app allows users in 30 communities across BC to register and upload photos of their bikes. If the bike is stolen, the app has an ‘alert’ button and provides steps to follow in the event of a theft.

The VPD says they’ve helped get stolen bikes back to the owners through partnering with the app, and community police officers are seeing the benefits as well.

Volunteer Fiona Walsh says that within 18 months of Project 529 launching, around 300 stolen bikes were returned to their rightful owners. As a member, she can decide if she wants notifications if any bikes are stolen within 5km of her home.

“I’ll get the notification. I get them regularly. And I might just go around and glance at bikes that are parked, or sitting in wrong places or whatever, and I might report it and say hey I see this bike, it looks like it’s got the sticker on it so I think it’s registered.”

Many cyclists use Project 529 shields and decals indicate to potential thieves that the bike is registered, and Constable Rob Brunt says criminals are taking note.

“We noticed that one of the criminals, when he came up to steal our bait bike. The bike he sighted was actually registered and we saw him come up, he walked and looked at the shield, he left that bike alone.”

The app developer that created Project 529, J Allard, says the inspiration for the app came from his own frustration when his bike was stolen.

“I got a little curious about this crime, and came to the rapid conclusion that the bad guys were better organized than the good guys. We found that the bike shops didn’t have great tools, the police didn’t have great tools, schools didn’t have great tools and cyclists didn’t have great tools and therefore they weren’t working together.”

Allard referred to bike theft as an epidemic in cities that are actively encouraging the reduction of traffic congestion and pollution, like Vancouver.

Weeks like Bike to Work Week are encouraged by municipalities and businesses to promote bike routes around cities and going green. The week is organized by HUB Cycling, a charitable non-profit organization established in 1998 (originally named the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition).

HUB is partnering with communities throughout the week and setting up education stations for people who are cycling to work. The stations feature prizes from local partners and free coffee.

Bike to Work Week runs from October 29 – November 4.

With files from Srushti Gangdev.