Bike theft is a serious problem in San Francisco. A report earlier this year revealed that more than 4,000 bikes are stolen every year, with an average of 11 bikes per day getting cut, clipped, and stripped for parts. In San Francisco, bike theft outnumbers iPhone theft 3 to 1.
Until last week, there was almost no way for you to get your bike back if it was found. There was no centralized database for bike registration, so if the police recovered your bike in a sting, cut from an illegal spot, or found it in a chop shop under the freeway, they had no way of getting the bikes back to their rightful owners. Thanks to a new registration program, however, this is all about to change.
SF SAFE, the SF Police Department nonprofit, just launched SAFE BIKES, a voluntary registration program that keeps a centralized database of SF bike serial numbers and photos so you’re more likely to get your precious ride back if it's stolen. SF SAFE partnered with the SFPD and local groups like the SF Bicycle Coalition to launch the voluntary registration program, and hundreds of local cyclists have already registered their rides.
The registration is free and easy to use; I registered all three of my bikes in under ten minutes. Just go to safebikes.org to register your ride, locate the serial number, take a photo of your bike, and fill out the form. If you bought your bike new, include the purchase receipt, otherwise fill out as many details about it as you can.
While a bike registry is a good idea, the best defense is locking your bike well. In San Francisco, you should always use a hardened-steel U-Lock, locking skewers for your wheels, and avoid leaving your bike unattended for too long. To learn more about how to securely lock your bike and what to do if it’s stolen, visit sfbike.org/theft. And if you see a bike theft in progress, call 911 and report it.