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Why Bike Theft Is So Hard to Stop

There are few defenses, no risks, and a decent reward.
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Many readers don't need statistics to know that bike theft is a big problem in cities, but the numbers do testify to the anecdotes. Streetsblog recently reported that bike theft is up 25 percent in New York. Transportation Alternatives has estimated that upwards of a million bikes get lifted annually (most aren't reported). The F.B.I. values stolen bicycles and their parts at $350 million a year. That's a lot of handlebar bells.

A couple weeks ago Rohin Dhar of the Priceonomics blog wondered just what happens to all these stolen bikes. After consulting news reports and talking with bike shop owners, Dhar concluded that, broadly speaking, there are two types of bike thieves. Many are amateurs who turn them quickly on the street for dimes and nickels on the dollar. Some are professionals who target better bikes, wield effective lock-breaking tools, and resell the goods near market price — often online in other cities.