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Bike registries are databases of unique, identifying information about bicycles and their ownership. Most registration programs use the unique serial numbers which are permanently affixed to most bicycles during manufacture.
Bicycle registration programs generally aim to reduce the prevalence of bike theft. Bicycle theft is one of the major factors that slow the development of utility cycling since it discourages people from investing in a bicycle.
Bicycle registration may be a public service provided by local, state or national government, or be provided by an independent organization.
Some registration programs are exclusively designed for spreading the word after a bike has been stolen, while others focus on registering bikes before they are stolen.
Bike registration is intended to provide:
- An element of security (such as at schools and universities)
- A means of theft deterrence and a method of recovery in the event of theft
Bikes are stolen in large numbers in many parts of the world.
- In Copenhagen approximately 20,000 annually.
- In the USA an average of 230,000 annually, according to the FBI.
- In UK, the Home Office reports an average 400,000.
Globally the number is estimated at 1.5 million bikes reported stolen annually; perhaps another 2 to 3 million go unreported annually.
At many schools and universities, all bikes brought onto campus are routinely required to be registered by their owners and to display prominently their annual school provided registration decal.
Some states in the USA, such as California, have laws which allow cities and municipalities to require registration of bikes. The registration period typically is in excess of one year. Building on existing law, California has passed a bill in 2014 that will allow cities, counties or regional park districts to impose an annual vehicle registration surcharge of up to $5 to pay for local bike lanes and trails, valid until Jan. 1, 2025.
Several commercial and peer based bike registries exist for the purpose of theft deterrence and to improve the probability of recovery in the event of loss. The registration period typically is from 1 year to unlimited. Some commercial and peer-to-peer registries are typically preventative in nature and are performed prior to loss, while other registries perform their service only after a theft occurs.
The bike owner generally supplies detailed bike information to the registrar such as: manufacturer, model, frame style, frame material, wheel diameter, serial number, color, frame size, and accessory details. Contact information pertaining to the owner are also included in the registration process.
The registrar will typically provide a decal or decal kit to the bike owner such that their bike can be easily identified as being registered. Decals at academic institutions usually have their color/design changed on an annual basis and are typically fairly large such that they can be easily seen at a distance. Decals issued by municipalities are typically of a design similar to academic decals, but not changed annually.
Decals provided by commercial and peer based registries are typically smaller than academic/municipal decals and use a more aggressive adhesive and/or construction such that they will remain on the bike in the event of a theft and will be able to assist in recovery and return effort. Some registrars engrave a registration number on the bottom bracket or other part.
RFID (Radio-frequency identification) has been widely used for identification of such things as livestock, pets and industrial commodities. There is a trend by some registrars to use RFID, in conjunction with decal identification, as a means of rapidly determining bike ownership by law enforcement agencies.
Fees can vary. Most peer based registries are free or charge a very nominal fee. School and university bike registration fees range from $2 to $5 for a single-year registration. Fees for commercial registrars range typically range from $10 to $25 for multi-year registration, though Bike Index provides free registration forever. For RFID there can be a surcharge of $15 onto the base registration fee.
Access to registry information
Access to school, university and municipality registry databases is typically limited to the law enforcement agency in charge of the registration program; commercial registrars make their registration information available to law enforcement agencies upon request; and peer-to-peer registries make their stolen bike information publicly available via the Internet.
- "New state law allows vehicle surcharge for bike lanes". Associated Press. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- FBI UCR 2011, Table 23
- FBI_Year 2006 bike thefts in the USA
- UK Home Office_Yeak 2005 bike thefts in UK(xls file)
- Copenhagen bike theft