A Vancouver pilot project focused on cutting bike crime is showing astonishing results and attracting worldwide attention. With local bicycle registrations surpassing 70,000, the joint initiative of the Vancouver Police Department, City of Vancouver and Project 529 has resulted in a 30-per-cent drop in bike theft. These results have drawn attention from the World Bank as it looks to emulate the success and improve bike security in developing countries.
Having started in Vancouver three years ago, Project 529 has since ballooned into the world’s largest bicycle registration program, with more than 800,000 searchable bikes. Importantly, this means that in Vancouver, the VPD returns one stolen bike to its owner almost every day.
In addition to Vancouver’s turnaround on bike crime, bike thefts plunged 55 per cent in Whistler and 30 per cent in Richmond in the last year alone. The program has expanded to 35 municipalities and more than 100 bicycle shops throughout the province.
“The number of reported bike thefts in Vancouver have been declining since 2015 and Project 529 has played an important role in this success. This program gives law enforcement tools to easily identify stolen bikes and locate their owners,” said VPD Chief Constable Adam Palmer. “We are asking Vancouver residents to help us fight bike theft by registering with Project 529.”
The program is spreading across North America, with growing interest throughout South America. The World Bank enlisted Project 529 and the Vancouver Police Department to provide expertise on its efforts to combat thefts in Bogota, Colombia, home to more than two million cyclists and ongoing bike theft struggles. Consequent discussions have also sparked interest in Chile and Brazil.
“Vancouver is recognized as a world leader in targeting bike crime,” said William Moose, consultant for The World Bank. “The World Bank looked into Vancouver when researching the global best practices in fighting bike theft and used the services of one of VPD’s own and 529 to advise the City of Bogota on its bicycle security strategy.”
The global 529 Garage app and web-based database is searchable and shared by police forces. As a result, hundreds of bicycles are being recovered – and returned to their owners – at times across international borders. Just last week, a mountain bike that was registered in Prince George and stolen in Penticton was recovered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Since the registration program has begun, Vancouver bicycles have been recovered as far away as Portland, Ore. and San Francisco, Calif.
“Project 529 is opening up bike crime across international boundaries. This universal registration system makes it easy for officers to search bikes and, critically, identify their owners. Bike theft is a global problem and now we can fight it with a global tool,” said Officer Dave Sanders with the Portland Police Bureau. “I’m confident we will be able to control bike theft in North America through this bike registration approach.”
J Allard, founder of Project 529, noted that when Project 529 first started in Vancouver, bike thefts were among the worst in Canada, growing about 20 per cent annually. He estimates the program has prevented more than 5,000 bicycles from being stolen in Vancouver during the past three years.
“No city in North America has had this kind of impact on the bike theft epidemic like Vancouver has. While the effort was backed with a great strategy and a modern software platform, the biggest factor in the success was the community partnerships and inter-agency cooperation with Vancouver and across B.C. As other cities look to follow Vancouver’s lead, it will be a huge win for the cycling community and the modern mobility movement,” said Allard.
Lon LaClaire, Director of Transportation for the City of Vancouver, acknowledged the project’s success: “Congratulations to Project 529 for their success in reducing bike thefts over the last three years. Fear of having a bike stolen is consistently something we see as a barrier to cycling, and programs like this are helping Vancouver residents make the healthy, sustainable choice to cycle more.”
Register your bike
Kicking off British Columbia’s Fall Bike to Work Week, Project 529 would like to encourage all cyclists to register their bikes – no matter their size or value. It’s free to register and only takes five minutes. Visit project529.com for further details or download the 529 Garage smartphone app.