Bike thefts spike more than 400% in the summer

Almost half of thefts occur from homes

Bike thefts spike more than 400% in the summer

Insurance News

By Gia Snape

Summer brings fun in the sun… and a surge in bike thefts.

A new report by Square One has found that the number of thefts during the warmer months spiked 429% compared to winter.

“We noticed internally that there was an increase of bicycle-related claims during certain times,” said Stefan Tirschler, director, product & underwriting at Square One. “So, we decided to look at an external independent source and see if there’s a trend at the municipal level.”

Bike theft trends across Canada

The home insurance provider reached out to police services in several major cities across Canada, including Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal, for data on reported bike thefts.

It found that four of the seven cities saw an increase in bike theft incidents in 2022 compared to 2021.

Almost half of reported thefts took place at home, including frequent thefts from inside sheds or garages. The only city in which this wasn’t true was Vancouver, where bicycles there were more commonly reported stolen from streets or parks.

The two smallest cities in the dataset also had the highest population-adjusted theft rate, though this may simply be due to the small sample size, Square One noted.

Curiously, Victoria, where year-round cycling is far more common, saw reported bike thefts increase by only 81% in the summer versus winter, compared to 429% for all cities combined.

What are the most common bike theft locations in Canada?

Bike theft remains an issue in each city, and summer weather means more thieves on the lookout for opportunities, according to Square One.

Out of some 75,000 reported thefts from 2016 to 2022 in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto, these are the most common theft locations:

  • Residential property: 43.4%
  • Out-and-about (parks, streets, etc.): 30.3%
  • Commercial property: 15.5%
  • Other: 6.0%
  • Educational facilities: 3.4%
  • Transit (bus, station, train): 1.4%

The good news, however, is that reported bicycle thefts have declined sharply in several cities since 2016, even adjusting for population growth.

“Even though populations are trending upwards in many urban areas, the fact that bike rates adjusted for population growth are declining over time speaks to something being different,” said Tirschler.

“It may be because as people become more familiar with cycling, there’s more infrastructure built to support it as well.”

What are the implications for homeowner insureds?

With nearly half of bike thefts recorded from residential properties, homeowners must be vigilant with their security and ensure they’re adequately protected by their insurance policies.

“Residential property lumps in different types of homes, so it’s difficult to differentiate between incidents that happen in multi-unit apartment buildings versus those in detached homes,” Tirschler said.

“In both settings, where and how you store your bike are very important because bike theft is very much a crime of opportunity.”

Insureds that live in detached homes should keep their bikes in their garage as much as possible and keep garage doors closed so their bikes aren’t visible and easy for thieves to snatch.

“I think we're all familiar with those YouTube videos of porch pirates stealing packages that are waiting to be picked up,” said Tirschler. “It seems fairly common sense, but people are very busy.

“Sometimes you get home from work with a car full of groceries that you have to bring into the house, and maybe you forget to close the garage door, and that could be when the bike disappears.”

Depending on the city, fewer than five percent are ever returned to their owners, Square One found.

In the worse-case scenario, owners can claim the loss through their home insurance if they have purchased appropriate coverage.

Most home insurance policies automatically include $1,000 to $3,000 worth of bike coverage, Tirschler noted, but individuals can purchase more coverage for more expensive bikes.

Tips for preventing bike theft

Square One shared the following tips for preventing bike theft:

  • Invest in a proper lock. U-locks made of hardened steel are a great choice. Multiple types of locks can also fortify your bike’s security.  
  • Choose parking spots wisely. Owners should pick bike racks that are securely fastened to a ground or building when parking. The area should either be secure with limited access or an area with plenty of foot traffic. Trying to park in a hidden spot might backfire, Tirschler warned.

“The way that you park your bike can be a big part of the issue because having a lock is great, but a lock can be defeated with enough time and energy,” said Tirschler. “If your bike is in an area that's not well visible to passersby, you might be affording someone the time and discretion to defeat your lock.”

  • Register your bicycle. Project 529 is a program that partners with many law enforcement agencies, and allows bike owners to register their ride for free. Many local law enforcement services, including the Toronto Police Service, also have a registration program. Record the bike’s serial number and take photos so you can easily identify it.

Do you have any thoughts about this story? Tell us in the comments below.

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