Beat the Bike Thieves; Love it, Lock it, Log it

Mar 03, 2022
Beat the Bike Thieves; Love it, Lock it, Log it

Macaila Pescud

It’s all too common in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) to have a story of having a bike stolen, like Fiáin’s below. Bike Auckland have chosen 529 Garage, which has shown success overseas, as our champion to tackle bike theft. Read on to learn more about why we chose it, and other ways that you can keep your bike safe.

Register your bike to 529 Garage (2021) here:

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Andriod


When I was a teenager my bike was stolen and I was gutted. Every morning I had cycled to my friend’s house on the way to school. From there either we would cycle together, or I would leave my bike in her garage and we would walk together. On this day I must have been late; she had left without me, and I left my bike unlocked behind her garage instead. 

I remember feeling panicked after school when I realised it was gone. I remember the disappointment in myself for leaving it unlocked, the frustration of being without easy transport, and later, the fear that it would happen again. We weren’t a well off family and I felt guilty, knowing it was a burden for my mum to replace it. We hadn’t recorded the serial number, and if the police ever recovered it they wouldn’t have known who to give it back to.

I was lucky to get a bike again, and lucky that it didn’t deter me from using my bike as transport. From then on I made sure to lock my bikes and, though I used terrible bike locks, it’s so far the only time I’ve had a bike stolen – touch wood. I usually had cheap second hand bikes though so they have not been a high target. 

I plan on buying an e-bike one day soon, and I know I will be much more vigilant, and I’ll be much more worried about it. It’ll be the most money I’ve spent on anything, and it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to replace it (with another e-bike) if it gets stolen.


Bike Theft – why does it matter?

In Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) 500 – 1000 bikes are reported stolen each year. However, it is estimated that the actual number is between 2500 – 5000. This is because many people do not report it when their bike is stolen, and sometimes bike theft is listed more generally as ‘theft’ or ‘burglary’ in the police database. With such a high incidence in bike theft, insurers are reconsidering their coverage of bikes. The most likely area to have a bike stolen from is the central city.

Aside from being inconvenient and frustrating, many don’t replace their stolen bike and 7% stop cycling altogether. For those who do replace their bike, many report being less likely to cycle due to concerns that their bike will be stolen again. Some people are deterred from taking up travel by bike in the first place due to concerns about bike theft. 

Unfortunately, like many issues, this weighs more heavily on people who are on low incomes, as they are less likely to be able to afford a good quality lock, less likely to be able to insure their property, and less able to afford to replace their bike.

Of course, we want to reduce these barriers as much as we can, so people can keep using their bikes – for the planet, for climate change, for safe live-able cities and for mental and physical health.

Keeping your bike safe with 529 Garage

529 Garage is a bike registration system which is free to use, and helps to get bikes that are stolen back to their owners. Widespread 529 Garage use has the power to make bike theft inconvenient and unprofitable, dampening the stolen bike market. 

In Vancouver 529 Garage has been very successful, with a 20% year on year decrease in bike theft once it was launched.

Bike Theft over time, reducing with introduction of 529 Garage. Source: 529 Garage, statistics from the Vancouver Police Department

If your bike is stolen you can use 529 Garage to alert the police and nearby community. People can contact you anonymously through the app if they see your bike or you can choose to release your contact information publicly for updates. 

Quite often the police do recover stolen bikes but don’t know who to return them to. Currently less than 5% of stolen bikes are returned to their owners. With registration to 529 Garage (if you tick the box that says ‘share with law enforcement’) police will know who to return recovered bikes to. 

If you are buying a second hand bike, you can look up the registration code in 529 Garage to find out if it has been marked as stolen. You can ask on Trademe and Facebook marketplace for the registration number to look up – better yet, Trademe and Facebook could make it compulsory for sellers to list the registration number. This makes bike theft less profitable and more risky: altogether making it less appealing. After you have bought a second hand bike, the previous owner can transfer their registration to you – simple!

Once you have registered your bike, you can choose to put a 529 Garage sticker (known as a ‘shield’) on it in a visible location. The sticker gives a handy way to look up the bike without tipping it upside down and once people know more widely what it means, will help to deter bike thieves. 

A 529 Garage sticker on a salmon coloured Schwinn bike
A 529 Garage shield on the downtube of Fiáin’s peach Schwinn

In Vancouver 529 Garage was successful because the community drove the project, maximising the amount of bike registrations. In Tāmaki Makaurau, community groups can help by registering bikes at events, and bike shops can register bikes at the point of sale. To make 529 Garage as successful as it can be, we need to build a culture of registering bikes, and of looking up second hand bikes. If we register as many bikes as we can, we will begin to reduce bike theft and make it easier for people to get their stolen bikes back.

You can hear Bike Auckland’s Gabriel Gati and Electric Bike Team’s Maurice Well’s talk about 529 Garage in this interview with RNZ Checkpoint.

So far the New Zealand 529 Garage project has been volunteer-led, and we need as much help as we can get. Email us at 529@bikeauckland.org.nz to get involved.


Barriers to bike theft

The first defense from having your bike stolen is a decent lock. At the moment Auckland Transport are doing a ‘Bike Lock Amnesty’ programme where bike hubs across Tāmaki Makaurau are swapping cable locks for decent good quality D-locks – for free! Check out this list to find your local bike hub and get yourself a decent, free, lock!
If you can afford it, a D-lock, folding lock, or chain lock are best. 

Another great way to keep your bike safe is to use a Big Street Bikers’ Lockydock. You can open these with your AT Hop card, or with their App and they lock securely over your bike, scooter, or even your skateboard. They also have a secure charging port for e-bikes, if you bring your own charger. Over the last five years they have had zero bike thefts! They’re already popular in Christchurch, are super visible with their bright pink colour, they include a map of safe cycle paths and a CCTV camera and are steadily sprouting up across Tāmaki Makaurau. I love Locky Docks because they help to provide safe bike parking even if you can’t afford a decent bike lock. 

To get some in your area, check out this awesome email template to send to local businesses and local boards (it’s easier to get permission to place them on private land than on public land). They’re free for businesses and free for you to use, so it’s a win-win. 

For any questions email Big Street Bikers: hq@bigstreetbikers.com


You can help stop bike theft by:

  • Talking to your workplace / building manager / event venues / local businesses about providing decent, secure bike parking – would a locky dock work for them?
  • Encouraging Council / shopping malls to place CCTV near bike parking facilities or to move their bike parking to a more visible location
  • Bikes Welcome has some great statistics you can share with businesses.

Register your bike to 529 Garage (2021) here:

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Andriod

Together, we can stop bike theft.

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Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better city. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

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