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Victoria bike-theft map shows most are stolen in residential neighbourhoods

While many people believe their bikes are safe in a locked condo bike room, that doesn’t seem to be the case
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Jamie Wellbourn with his iPhone bike-theft map on Beacon Avenue in Sidney. Wellbourn created the map using bike thefts reported on Facebook. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

When Jamie Wellbourn mapped the locations of self-reported bike thefts in Greater Victoria over nearly two months, he was surprised by the picture that emerged.

Wellbourn expected to see a cluster of thefts in downtown Victoria, but instead just three of the 35 thefts he mapped occurred downtown. The other 32 were scattered around mostly residential areas. Many were taken from condo bike rooms or backyards.

Wellbourn said many people believe their bikes are safe in a locked condo bike room, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It only takes someone holding the door open for someone accidentally or someone breaking in overnight when they’re unlikely to be caught. “It doesn’t take that much effort to actually get in there,” he said.

Wellbourn created the map using bike thefts reported in a Facebook group dedicated to finding stolen bikes, called Stolen Bicycle Avengers. He pinned locations on Google Maps to identify the locations of thefts reported in the group going back to the start of October.

Some of the locations are specific to an address and some are more approximate, such as a condo building near Cook Street Village. Each pin also includes a link to the Facebook post reporting the theft.

Of the 35 thefts from the start of October to Nov. 20, 10 bikes were recovered and returned to their owners.

Story continues below the map.

Wellbourn, who does deliveries on his e-bike for work, said he created the map for fun, but hopes it helps people realize that it’s important to lock up their bikes even if they think they’re in a secure room or safe in the backyard, or to take them inside for extra security.

Wellbourn hasn’t had his bike stolen, but someone did attempt to take it once. He has a motion-activated alarm on the bike, and when the would-be thief took off, the alarm sounded and the thief crashed the bike, Wellbourn was told by someone who witnessed the incident.

“I think that alarm actually saved my bike. I definitely recommend getting a motion alarm. At least to draw more attention to somebody trying to mess with it,” he said.

An average of 2,197 cyclists are counted going over the Johnson Street Bridge each day, according to the Capital Regional District’s automatic counters. A counter at Pandora Avenue and Vancouver Street has a daily average of 1,153 cyclists passing it.

The number of stolen bikes reported each year to Victoria police is down over the last five years, from 771 in 2016 to 550 last year. Nearly one-quarter of the 4,564 stolen bikes reported to police from 2016 to 2022 were returned to their owners.

“Odds are most people are never going to have their bike stolen, but you can reduce that chance to nearly zero with a little education,” Wellbourn said.

Corey Burger, policy and infrastructure chair at Capital Bike, said the map could be useful to show decision makers what areas need to be prioritized for secure parking facilities.

While the City of Victoria has invested in creating a network of protected cycling infrastructure and bikeways to improve safety, bike theft remains a deterrent for some people who might like to cycle, he said, and tackling theft is the next challenge to getting more people on bikes. “Things like the bike valet in Victoria are game changers in terms of making people more comfortable and providing safe spaces to keep their bikes.

The bike valet service is on Pandora Avenue between Government and Douglas streets, at Centennial Square. It’s a free coat-check-style service for bikes, jogging strollers and other personal mobility devices It’s open seven days a week, with varying hours.

Go to victoria.ca/getting-around/walking-riding-rolling/bike-parking for fall operating hours.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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