Why a Bicycle Registry?
Bicycles, for sport or commute, have not been left behind where technology is concerned. From space-age frame design to new metal alloys to more efficient lube, technology has had a welcoming influence. This influence has inevitably come at a price. The average bicycle has ceased to be an insignificant expense.
This fact has sadly not escaped the criminal element in our society. In the last 8 years or so bicycles [and cyclists] have become a target for organised crime i.e. organised bike theft. Sadly, part of this process is a relatively new scourge, the bike-jack ... Bike theft under violent conditions.
Although we have no specific statistics in South Africa regarding bike theft ... apart from what the insurance companies may share with us. Bike theft has however been described as “unacceptably high”. No records of bike theft [specifically] are being kept by our law-enforcement authorities as bicycles are considered to be “household goods”.
Stealing a bicycle under any condition has become quite easy with a very small chance of prosecution. There are two major reasons for this :  Ownership is very difficult to prove in a legal case and  Most second hand Bike dealers [off- or on-line] never ask for proof of ownership when listing a second hand Bike. A Bike taken in a Bike-jack during a morning ride can be sold on an “e-Bay” equivalent by the same afternoon! ...
We realize of course that as individuals there is not much we can do to 'combat' this trend. However, as a cycling community, we can to some extent [strategically] make the sale of stolen bicycles more difficult.
Imagine if :
- A Bike Registry existed where owners can list their Bikes against their personal ID number. This going toward establishing some form of ownership record. A Registry that is affordable to all bike owners no matter their reason for cycling be it commute, leisure or professional.
- A Bike Registry that lists all Stolen Bikes in one public spot. All cyclists that want to buy a second hand bike checks the Stolen Bike list before taking ownership of their target Bike. In time, a potential buyer of a second hand cycle could verify original ownership.
- All facilitators of second hand bike sales demand proof of ownership or at the least record Serial Numbers.
- All Bike Dealers / Shops check bikes coming for service, upgrades, re-colour, etc. against the Stolen Bike list.
- Official Border Post staff have access to Stolen Bike data [many stolen bikes are believed to make their way across our borders without challenge].
- Bikes suspected or recovered by the SAPS are checked against a Stolen Bike list in order to trace the rightful owner.
- What if it becomes well known among the criminal element that bicycles are being registered and that the selling of a stolen bike is not without risk.
If such a Registry [and culture] existed within our cycling community, we have no doubt that there is a good probability that we shall see a reduction in Bike theft ... preventing just one violent attack will more than justify such efforts.
In many countries around the world local law enforcement or government manages such databases using a variety of models. In South Africa we do not have this luxury. However as cyclists we know cycling, we know bikes, we know routes ... there is no-one better informed to assist in the reduction of Bike theft than us ... it is ultimately up to us, the cyclist.