There’s not much that sinks a cyclist’s stomach faster than approaching their bike only to find nothing but a cut lock left behind, but that is the reality many Calgarians face — especially as peak bike theft season rolls in.
Last year, 1,167 bikes were reported stolen in Calgary, which is an average of around three per day. So far this year, there have been 190 thefts and counting, police say.
According to Bike Index — a non-profit organization that tracks stolen bicycles through registration — this year is expected to see fewer bike thefts than the last two years, but might be costlier for victims as the price of bikes continues to increase.
Creating a safe place to buy and sell bikes
Technology also makes it easier for thieves to sell stolen bikes on online marketplaces.
That’s part of the reason Chris and Laura Grant continue to run Alberta Bike Swap, the community-based event for buying, selling, and donating bikes, which is making its return to Calgary on May 7 and 8 in the northeast corner of the parking lot of Sunridge Mall.
The Grants have been running Alberta Bike Swap for several years, with thousands of people attending the event and donating more than half their profits back into the community.
It started as a way to promote a cycling lifestyle in Alberta but also serves as a safe and trustworthy approach to buying and selling bikes in the province.
Fighting back against bike theft
The Grants say it’s important to ensure that the bikes they’re selling aren’t being swapped by criminals.
“We all know someone who has had a bike stolen, and a significant amount of crime is committed on stolen bikes. What percentage of bikes being sold online are legitimately owned by the person selling that bike,” Chris says.
“It’s been estimated that over 80 per cent of the bikes being sold online are stolen and that number spiked last year.”
The Grants have a chain of ownership, which keeps stolen bikes out of their events, and they also allow anyone with a police report to peruse what they’re selling.
They also introduced a Bike Index at the Alberta Bike Swap events to ensure no one buys a stolen bike.
“The police trust our due diligence and paperwork enough to have retrieved bikes from pawn shops and online sales after a bike had been stolen from a buyer.”
Giving back to the community
In addition to ensuring that stolen bikes aren’t sold at their events, the Grants have also donated a large number of their profits to the community as well.
“We donated five times the profit in bikes and in-kind back to the community and donated over $28,500 at our last events in 2019,” Laura says.
At the same time, they donate bikes to kids with disabilities and in other countries, having donated over 1,000 bikes across Alberta and in Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Tanzania.
“We also fund the container costs for Bicycles for Humanity, we fund safe cycling in Alberta, and fund dozens of other cycling-related nonprofits and charities.”