Update: A big week for bike theft

[Update: The Police Bureau has just debuted their new web page for bike safety and theft info.]

[Recovery number 15!]

This week has been good and bad for bike theft.

First the bad news. In the last 7 days there have been 39 new stolen bike listings (I haven’t published them all yet).

That’s a record for this site.

Now, the good news. The visibility of the listings is at an all-time high. More visibility = more bikes listed = more bikes recovered. This visibility is due in no small part to some recent prime time media coverage on our local FOX TV station (KPTV).

This coverage follows a nice feature in the Willamette Week a while back, and before that, another prime-time news story on local NBC station, KGW.

The funny thing about all this is that I am now getting phone calls from people without web access but who desparately want to list their bike. Yesterday a woman called me sobbing profusely, barely able to speak as she described her beloved lost steed.

[Click to enlarge or
download PDF.]

OK, more good news.

In the last 7 days this site has recovered two more stolen bikes (this one and this one)! This brings the total number of bikes recovered to a whopping 15 (!) since October of 2005. Great job to everyone for being alert and for regularly checking the listings.

There are also now nearly 200 people on my Stolen Bike Digest list. Most of these are bike shop employees and at least two of them are police officers (I can tell by their email addresses). These folks get an email once a week with all the listings and I encourage them to print it out and display it in their bike shop or other place of business.

And believe it or not, there’s even more good news.

I have been working with PDOT and the Portland Police Bureau to help educate cyclists about bike theft prevention and recovery. The result of our collaboration (and I used insights gleaned from comments to this post) is a brand new bicycle information card that is at the printer right now and will be ready next week!

This new card (displayed at right) has legal and safety info on one side, and bike theft and prevention info on the other. The next step is to encourage bike shops to staple this card to their receipts and make them available to their customers. The card will also be passed out at events throughout the city.

In addition to this new information card, the Portland Police Bureau’s website will soon have a new bike theft page now includes a new page on bicycle safety and theft information. In a great sign of community collaboration, they will actually be linking to my site and encouraging people to list their stolen bikes on BikePortland.org.

I’m excited at how the Stolen Bike Listings have grown. However I realize they can be vastly improved. The next step is to find a sponsor and then find a web programmer to help me design a better system…because I barely have the time to keep them going.

Stay tuned…and if you’d like to sponsor my Stolen BIke Listings or help with programming, just get in touch.

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16 years ago

This is good news. I hope the increase is simply because more people are riding due to the nice weather (and not because of criminal boldness)

16 years ago

You know, some of the listings are very incomplete. They often don’t mention the color, size, or style of the bike. They usually don’t have pictures of the bikes. I know it’s hard to take a picture of a bike no longer in your possession, but most vendor websites have photos of models going back a number of years.

I’ve seen bikes that I *think* I remember reading about online here but I’m not sure because I don’t know the color, or the size, or whether or not the bike had a rack.

Perhaps a form or some other structured method of recording the information, along with highly encouraging a photo or at least a link to a vendor’s page for the model, would be a vast improvement. IMHO.

What do you think?


16 years ago

Jonathan — thanks so much for your good work on theft prevention and thanks to those police who are interested in helping out. I’m pretty ignorant of police anti-bike-theft efforts so maybe you or someone in PPD could enlighten me:

Do they keep records of where most bike thefts occur?

Are there “theft nodes” that we can try to avoid or where stronger police vigilance would be useful?

Have there been recent busts of big bike theft operations, or even small time thieves?

I realize the police have higher priorities (like violent crimes) but is there an officer dedicated to busting these apparently organized bike theft rings? With so many thefts happening, there must be some kind of infrastructure of pawn shops, groups stalking vulnerable locations, etc.

If they have the resources to crackdown on bike commuters, surely the police must be devoting substantial effort to busting bike thieves. Maybe this would be a good place for them to tell us what they’re doing now and for us to discuss what more could be done.

One of the most depressing parts of my day is seeing the stolen bike listings here — it makes me worry every time I lock my bike somewhere downtown.

16 years ago

The card looks great, hopefully shops will adopt them to hand out with new purchases.

I’ve heard from a few cable users I’ve spoken to that a bike shop employee recommended the cable they were using. That needs to stop as well. I myself have heard retail people selling customers on low-end long shackle U-locks without mentioning that most one-bolt designs can be leveraged easily or that the steel in many locks is comparatively soft and malleable. I don’t want to advocate hard up-selling, but a customer should know what they are buying.

Some shop employee education might be valuable since they are a small captive audience when on the clock – store owner/manager/co-op willing.

16 years ago

Jonathan, thank you very much for providing the stolen bike listing and this new card. You are a gem.

dotRob’s idea about a form for listing stolen bikes is great. Maybe it could also include how the bike was stolen – was it locked? what kind of lock? locked to what? day or night? We could learn from each other.

And yes, Russell, I bought a cable lock because the bike shop salesperson recommended it. When I got more knowledgable, I bought a u-lock.

Now I’m going to go take a picture of my bike.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
16 years ago

Folks. Please. Trust me, like I said, I’m very well aware that my listings can be improved. It’s a matter of finding the right person to help me out.

I agree a form will definitely be a part of SBL2.0

I know some of them are incomplete, but my thinking has always been to make the listing process as barrier-free as possible and thus encourage as many people as possible to list.

forms and required fields sometimes scare people away.

thanks of course for the input and I’m excited to improve the listings!

p.s. the Police bureau has just published their new web page…go check it out!

16 years ago

Jonathan, if you need help, drop me a line. I’m a PHP programmer and web developer. Plus, I know WordPress pretty well and PHPBB even better.

16 years ago

Sorry I’m taking so long with http://finetoothcog.com/

Thinkhost was kind enough to donate some server space for the project and I’m in the process of getting it back up and running on a new host. Now that I’m working for myself http://codeinmotion.com/ I don’t have as much time to work on the Cog. However, in the next two weeks I will push to get the site running.

With that said the Finetoothcog is already setup to track make/model/stolen on date. It would be a snap to add stolen location, lock method, etc. I’ve got googlemaps experience so putting those locations on a map wouldn not be hard to do.

I just wish there were some funds out there for this sort of application development!

16 years ago

This is a post I made on the BikePortland forum in June. It won’t keep your bike from being stolen but it might help you to get it back.

If your bike gets stolen…..
…. you will want to have a record of the serial number for the police report. This is what I have done with my bikes:
1. Create a folder on my computer called “bike inventory”
2. create a sub folder for each bike
3. put in that subfolder a couple of photos and a text file with a brief description including any identifying numbers
4. burn a backup CD of the bike inventory folder and keep it up to date by burning another CD whenever you make any changes or additions.

Here is a typical text file from my inventory:


Schwinn World Sport

This is a 1980 Schwinn World Sport men’s bicycle. As of 06/08/2006, it has black foam handlebar grips, a black saddle, a black alloy rear rack and silver plastic fenders.

Color: red
Identifying numbers:
Serial number 45xxx9, on left rear dropout
Headbadge date code, 1260
buzz engraved on bottom bracket housing:
ODL29xxx24 and SS xxx xx 4035

There are additional photos of this bike on the internet at:



This bike was engraved many years ago before ID theft was a problem. Today, I would not put my SSN on the bike but that is what was recommended by the PPB back then.
There are other ways, spreadsheets etc., but I chose this because it contains only .txt and .jpg files and the CD can be used on most any computer if I give a copy to the Police or an insurance company.


16 years ago

I noticed yesterday that the Bike Gallery is selling basic Kryptonite U-Locks for $19 instead of $29 as part of their summer sale. If you use a cable “lock” and your bike is worth more than $20, I recommend you swing by the Bike Gallery and grab a real lock.

I feel bad for folks whose bikes are stolen, but I’d like to see some statistics on how/if they were locked. My sense is that, although a cheap U-lock won’t stop a determined thief, thieves are plucking the low-hanging fruit and I’d be surprised if ANY of those bikes were locked with even the cheapest U-lock. If you use a cable, you shouldn’t be too surprised if your bike is stolen. It’s a shame, but it’s reality.

16 years ago

I saw that Bike Gallery was selling those locks. They are a hell of a lot better than a cable, but they have a couple design issues themselves. I’d recommend dropping another $10 and getting a bulldog mini from REI or elsewhere. It stands up better to a leverage attack assuming the thief could even get a bar between the lock and your bike.

Here’s Slate’s review of the lock they are selling at Bike Gallery. It’s the fourth one reviewed after the two cables and the Masterlock.


Here’s how to use it:

If $19 is the absolute limit you can spend though, I agree, get the Krypto rather than a cable.

16 years ago

If the Police are looking for a “Sting Operation” to perform maybe a bike theft sting would be a good one. They might net a few people with warrants, or with meth or crack on their person. If they use an expensive full-suspension mountain bike they can arrest them for grand larceny.

16 years ago

i heard a story that the pdx police tried a bike sting operation, but the theif rode away with the bait. (Apparently the cops ‘disabled’ the bike by severing the brake lines.)

btw, i’m sorry to bring your stats down, but if you’re counting that Robin Hood i listed as a “recovered” bike, maybe you shouldn’t. it was totally, utterly destroyed when found in Peninsula Park — i think the thief jumped up and down on it for a while. not a happy ending. (still, closure was achieved, and the frame will have a new home in a garden fence on NE Albina.)

and yes indeed, that bike was unlocked when stolen.