By Joel Zanatta
The Cycling Lawyer

A few years ago, my garage was broken into. Though the garage was full of odds and ends, the thief had eyes for just one thing – my bike. A Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt, BC edition. Man, I loved that bike! Walking in and seeing the empty space where my bike had been was like a punch in the gut. If you’ve ever had a bike stolen, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Most cyclists have a deep and enduring love for their bike. We keep them tuned and clean. We modify them so they fit us just right. For some of us, it’s not just a sport, but our main method of transportation. Losing a bike to a thief takes a heavy toll, both emotionally and economically. Losing mine, still makes me mad.

But unfortunately my experience is all too common.

Pretty much everyone I know has had at least one bike stolen.

In fact more than two million bikes are stolen every year in North America. That’s one theft every thirty seconds, at an estimated cost of more than a billion dollars annually.

Many stolen bikes are stripped of their parts in chop-shops, others are resold online. And even if by some miracle your bike was recovered by police, less than 1% are registered, and fewer than 5% are returned to their owners.

Project 529 Is trying to change all this.

Project 529 is the largest and most advanced bike registry in North America. It was founded in 2013 by J Allard, a former Microsoft mega-star and creator of the xBox.

Allard wasn’t thinking about bike crime when he left Microsoft in 2010. That was until his custom mountain bike was stolen from a secure parking garage in Seattle.

“I’ve owned at least 30 bikes in my lifetime and had about five stolen,” Allard recently told the Financial Post. “But it was really the last one that got me fired up enough to do something.”

That something was Project 529.

Allard’s vision is to cut North American’s bike theft epidemic in half by 2025.

The idea is simple: people register their bikes on an online database.

If the bike is stolen, the owner issues an alert and an electronic all-points, bike-theft-bulletin is then sent to any app user within a 15 kilometre radius of the crime, plus bike shops and the police.

And it’s getting amazing results. The Vancouver Police Department was the first North American city to adopt the program, and since 2015 has seen a 30% drop in bike thefts. Whistler has seen a 55% reduction since it joined. Now, more than 1400 law enforcement agencies, universities and bike shop partners have signed on. Dozens of Canadian cities are taking part, from Prince George to Ottawa, Regina to Richmond. 35 municipalities are part of it in BC alone. And in response to demand from eastern Canada, Project 529 also has a French version in the works.

The database now has more than a million registered users, helping police fight bike theft across any border or jurisdiction.

The aim is to have 5 million bikes in its system across North America by 2022.

Registering your bike is free, and only takes five minutes. Just download the app, or join online. You’ll also receive a Project 529 sticker to place on your bike as a deterrent.

Bike theft takes a real emotional and economic toll. A full 7% of people quit cycling all together after having their bike stolen. What a shame. Let’s come together and shut this epidemic down.

Register your bike on Project 529 here.

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