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Bike Theft and How to Prevent It

The City of Portland wants to see more people using bikes for transportation and has compiled these key resources for keeping your bike safe and secure.

On this page

Unfortunately, bikes are stolen in Portland every day, even from outside of schools.

There are a number of techniques you can use to help prevent your or your student's bike from being stolen.  

1. Always use a U-lock. Never use only a cable lock - these can easily be cut through with cable-cutters or a saw.

2. Lock your wheel and frame together (see card for example). 

3. Use a bike rack (sign poles are not as secure).

4. When possible, do not park your bike on the sidewalk or street overnight.

5. Lock your bike in a well-lit and well-traveled area.

6. Take lights and other easily removed items with you.

7. Write down your serial number. It's also very helpful to have a picture of your bicycle and, if possible, the original sales receipt.

Graphic of front wheel and bike frame locked to a bike rack with an orange background

If you use a proper lock, and follow proper locking techniques, it is unlikely you will ever lose your bike to a thief. There are simply too many other unlocked or poorly locked bikes out there for a thief to waste time trying to steal your well-locked bike. 

Along with those techniques, the City of Portland also has a Bike Theft Task Force partnering with the bicycling community to focus efforts on reducing bike thefts in the city through education, awareness and enforcement. The Task Force is headed up by the Police Bureau.

Here are some quick steps you can take to start protecting your bike today:

  • Take a photo of you with your bike, or your student with theirs. Save it on your phone or computer so if your bike is ever stolen you can easily prove it's your bike. 
     
  • Write down your bike's serial number. This is another way to help prove you own a bike that has been stolen. Just like in the card on the right, it is usually found on the bottom of your bike underneath where you pedal.

 What to do if your bike is stolen?

This information comes from BicycleLaw.com:

If your bike is stolen, you can take heart in knowing that nearly half of all stolen bikes are recovered by law enforcement. However, you will need to take some steps if you hope to recover your bike.

1. Notify law enforcement by filing a stolen bike report. This is where your file documenting ownership of your bike will first be utilized—you will want to provide law enforcement with the bike’s serial number and a photo of the bike.

2. Conduct your own search for the bike. Look on online sites, such as Craigslist and eBay. Be aware that thieves will sometimes steal a bike in one city and advertise it for sale in another city. Some thieves will attempt to evade detection by the owner by providing a vague description of the bike in the ad.

Be sure to check BikePortland.org Stolen Bike Listings for your bike. This is a great service here in Portland.

3. Bring a photo of the bike and make the rounds of the pawn shops and second-hand stores in your area. If a thief tries to sell your stolen bike to them, the may recognize the bike. If they have already bought the bike, the documentation you have filed, along with the stolen bike report, will be proof that the bike is yours, and you will be entitled to recover the bike through procedures established by state law—check with your local law enforcement agency for those procedures. Despite what anyone may tell you, you are not required to pay a pawn shop for return of your stolen bike.

4. You should also make the rounds of the bike shops in your area. Thieves will sometimes attempt to sell stolen bikes to bike shops, especially if the shop sells used bikes. If you notify the shops, and can provide a photo, the shops may notify law enforcement if they see a bike matching your stolen bike.

5. Finally, check the police impound yard from time to time—your bike will end up there if it is recovered. Law enforcement should notify you, but just in case they’re not as diligent as you, it won’t hurt to look. Also, check the impound yard of your local transit agency—you’d be surprised how many bikes are left behind on buses.

6. If you do find your bike, notify law enforcement for assistance in recovering your bike. If law enforcement recovers your bike, they should notify you, based upon the stolen bike report you filed. You will need your stolen bike report and proof that the bike belongs to you before law enforcement will release it to you—thus, the importance of documenting your ownership of the bike and keeping it in a file.

For information about insuring your bike against loss from theft, and filing a claim if your bike is stolen, see Insurance Advice.

Bicycle Registry Services

There are many bicycle registry services that allow you to register your bike and its serial number in case it is ever stolen. Several of these registries are working with the Portland Police Bureau to make recovering a stolen bike and stopping future thefts easier.

Portland Police Bureau Bike Theft Task Force

Project 529 - Quickly register your bike wherever you are.

BikeIndex.org - The Bike Index makes stolen bikes harder to sell and easier to recover by making sure important information about your bike is there when you need it the most.