As heists spike Regina cyclists need more places to lock up

CITY by Gregory Beatty

How bad is Regina’s bike theft problem? The night before meeting me for an interview, Bike Regina president Sara Maria Daubisse had house guests in the General Hospital area, and at 3 a.m. they had three bikes stolen off their truck.

A week earlier, the Leader-Post reported on an equally brazen “heist” where a thief unbolted a street sign at the base to remove a bike. As of Aug. 17, the article noted, there’d been 438 reported bike thefts. That compares to 264 last year, and 379 in 2013.

Add in Daubisse’s three, and who knows how many others since Aug. 17, and the 2015 total is surely creeping up on 500.

Some of the spike can be attributed to the better weather we’ve had compared to 2014, so people have been out more on bikes. Part of it’s also likely attributable to the growing popularity of cycling. It’s still low single digits, but the number of Reginans who use bikes to get around is increasing.

There’s a third factor to consider too, says Daubisse.

“There’s root causes related to poverty and addiction where people steal stuff to get money. I don’t think anybody is stealing bikes to ride, outside of maybe getting from A to B and then ditching. I think it’s people stealing bikes to resell.

“The bikes aren’t likely to show up on Used Regina or Kijiji because that’s a place people are going to look right away. But they could be going to pawn shops, or maybe people are stocking them to sell later.”

High-end bikes run $3000 or more. So if a well-organized thief did some research and knew what the top brands were, there’d be money to be made.

Of the 438 thefts, 166 occurred during break-and-enters. So even at home, cyclists should always lock their bikes to something solid. [see sidebar for more tips]

When cyclists are out-and-about though, that’s not always easy to do.

“There are far too few places to lock a bike,” said one cyclist who responded to a Facebook post asking about Regina’s bike security.

“I had an heirloom bike — belonged to my 91-year-old mother-in-law — stolen when I lived in the Crescent Apartments several years ago. Now, I take mine into the supermarket with me on principle.”

“My bike was stolen on a Friday afternoon from Central Library bike stands,” responded another. “Where did the nice bike racks go that were at the west end of the ‘plaza’? Only the holes remain! Will they be coming back? Then there are the new ones that do not allow you to securely lock tire and frame, which you must do if you have quick-release wheels.”

As a service to cyclists, Bike Regina runs a bike valet at Canada Day, the Regina Folk Festival and other public events.

“Every event we’ve done it’s been popular,” says Daubisse. “Even when people use the service, though, they lock up. So people are really concerned about getting bikes stolen.”

The valet service, she says, is a good way to keep bikes safe during special events.

“But when people are commuting downtown or to the university to work or study, they need access to secure lock-up all the time.”

Bike Regina has had conversations with city councillors about boosting the city’s bike lock-up capacity, says Daubisse, but the issue’s on the back-burner as the main focus is on the creation and maintenance of bike lines, and ensuring money budgeted for cycling actually gets spent.

“We do intend to talk to the city more in the future about lock-up facilities,” says Daubisse. “A good idea would be to subsidize workplaces that provide secure lock-ups. It’s good for the environment, traffic in the downtown, parking. People enjoy cycling, so why not encourage them?”

Alternately, employees could approach employers on their own.

“An employer might not even be aware that employees want it, or that the option of providing a secure lock-up for cycling exists,” says Daubisse.

Regardless, secure lock-up is a vital part of cycling infrastructure, and infrastructure is what’s needed to promote cycling in Regina, says Daubisse.

“The city did a study leading up to the transportation master plan,” Dauvisse says. “They found two per cent of the population cycles regularly, but upwards of 65 per cent would like to but are hesitant. We’d like to get those people cycling.”

Sticks In Thieves’ Spokes

Good bike security starts with locks. Plural.

Technically, it’s illegal to lock a bike to anything not a designated bike rack in Regina. But out of necessity everyone uses parking meters, street signs, railings, and more, to lock-up.

Your best option, of course, is a properly designed bike rack. Whether one’s available, or you’re “improvising”, says Sara Maria Daubisse of Bike Regina, you should have two locks.

“A D-lock, and a thick cable or chain lock,” says Daubisse. “That way the thief needs at least two tools. I take my seat off, because then the bike’s less attractive. If you can, take off a wheel. And make sure the locks are around the frame and attached to something secure.”

Record the serial number, and take a picture too, so if your bike gets stolen you can share it on social media and ask people to keep an eye out. Don’t park in the same spot all the time either: “A thief might scope it out, see what kind of tools are necessary, and come back later,” Daubisse says.

Some cyclists even resort to duct-taping their bikes to make them less attractive. You can also put mini-transmitters in the frame to track a stolen bike. “We wouldn’t recommend trying to apprehend the person, but if you found it you could contact the police,” says Daubisse.

Even if the odds of getting your bike back are long, Bike Regina recommends reporting the theft to police. Those reports translate into statistics, and that shows the city the extent of the problem.

Bike Regina applauds organizations such as Carmichael Outreach who have programs to repair used bikes and provide them to the underprivileged.

“We also try to ensure all found and unclaimed bikes go to organizations that can provide them to people. That will limit the problem to a certain extent,” says Daubisse. /Gregory Beatty