Police and Promotion: Key Elements for a Campus Bike Registration Program

By Share the Road Cycling Coalition

In an effort to minimize bike theft on campus, bicycle registration programs are becoming a hot topic of conversation. In a survey conducted at Queen’s University in 2013, 52% of respondents indicated that “bike theft” was a deterrent to riding a bike. Bike theft occurs in every community, and campus leaders want to do something about it. Are registration programs the right move?

Bike registration programs vary from place to place, but the key element remains the same. Bike owners register their bikes by providing their bicycle serial number to the organization or department responsible for the program. If a bike is stolen, it can be more easily identified using the serial number and re-united with the owner. Registration programs are relatively low-cost to administer and are usually offered for free to participants.

We spoke with staff involved with bike registration programs at 3 Ontario campuses to get a better sense of whether or not they are a worthwhile investment. Although participation numbers were generally low, staff recommended the program for other schools. With a few stipulations – partner with local law enforcement and promote the program!

Police involvement: At OCAD, Campus Security launched their bicycle registration program for students and faculty in 2013 and has registered approximately 200 bikes in that short time. They run their program in cooperation with the Toronto Police Service. When someone registers their bike with Campus Security, they are also registering their bike with the Toronto Police Service and the Canadian Police Information Centre, which allows bikes to be found anywhere in Canada. As an added feature, all registered bikes receive a sticker with the police logo on it, which likely acts as a bit of a theft deterrent in itself.

Promotion: Bike registration programs are not very common and large numbers of students generally aren’t going to come to campus and seek one out. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t sign up if it’s quick and easy. With a high population turn-over rate on campus, it is especially important to continuously bring on new members to keep the program going. A small program with a couple of registered bikes doesn’t draw much attention, but if it becomes well known that most students have registered their bikes, the program will have more traction and may even help to deter thieves. Last week, we were on-site at Western with campus police and signed 30 students up for the program in two hours by giving away free U-locks as an incentive (and to help prevent theft).

A bike registration program should not replace investments in secure on-campus bike parking and will be more successful if it is treated as an opportunity to engage with students about best-practices for locking up their bikes. Bike registration programs are not a “must have” for promoting cycling and, if you don’t have a long-term home for the program with staff that will ensure the maintenance of the registration database over time, it might be wise to focus on other activities. However, if you feel that you have the support of local law enforcement and the resources to engage large numbers of students in the program, a bike registration program could be for you.

Have you registered your bike? Does your campus have a bike registration program? Share your thoughts with us.