Every Montreal cyclist’s nightmare finally came true for Cole Shields this month: Someone stole his beloved bike.
One morning, he closed it against the railing of the stairs of his house in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, facing the Parc Lalancette. When she got home late in the afternoon, she was gone.
Its far east district isn’t the safest for bikes, averaging just over 100 stolen bikes a year, but it’s far from the worst.
In absolute numbers, over the past four and a half years, more bicycle thefts were reported in the Plateau-Mont-Royal district than in any other district, according to data from the SMontreal City Police Service (SPVM) compiled by Breaking:.
In terms of the highest rate of bike theft, the eastern end of Ville-Marie is considered the worst, with 42 stolen bikes per 1,000 residents.
Those numbers may be even higher, an SPVM spokesperson said in an email, because in Montreal, a city that prides itself on its cycling culture, bike theft goes unreported.
The number of open bicycle theft cases has been fairly constant between 2019 and 2022, with an average of about 2,200 complaints filed annually.
Shields is just one of nearly 1,000 people whose bike was taken from the city this summer. Even Montreal Police Chief Fady Dagher had his stolen in June, according to the Journal de Montréal.
After Shields underwent a spinal fusion in 2018, getting hit on the bike hurt especially because the $700 bike had enough suspension to absorb the impact of countless Montreal potholes it had run into.
“When they took that away from me, they took away part of my freedom,” he said. “It’s a means of transportation. And with global warming, it’s something I can use without polluting.”
How to protect your bike
Although Vélo Québec CEO Jean-François Rheault says it’s impossible to make a bike completely theft-proof, there are steps cyclists can take to better protect their environmentally friendly ride.
For one, Rheault recommends keeping track of the bike’s serial number and registering for Garage 529 — a free app to track local bike theft reports and discourage theft.
As of the end of July, more than 20,200 bikes in Montreal were registered to Garage 529. The SPVM joined the app’s network in 2021.
“The more people use the database, the more robust it will be, so we encourage everyone to do so,” he said.
Even long-time bike owners fall prey to thieves.
Rheault says that many riders are unaware that they haven’t locked their bike securely, noting that he often sees bikes whose front wheel and frame are unlocked.
To deter casual opportunists, he recommends that cyclists invest in high-quality, heat-treated steel locks that cost at least $50, since many low-performance locks are made of zinc, a soft metal, which is less resistant to chipping. cable cutters saws and hammers.
It’s also worth installing a GPS tracker or Airtag for cyclists in case they need to search for their bike.
“If someone wants to steal it, I think they can always find a way, but creating multiple defenses is something that people can do,” Rheault said.
Possible public bike storage
Rheault believes that the availability of more indoor bike storage would deter people from outright robbery in broad daylight.
“The city is aware of the problem of bicycle theft and is working with various partners to counter this problem,” Montreal spokesman Hugo Bourgoin said in a statement.
Montreal’s transit authority, the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM), has a bike shelter throughout its network. The shelter, intended for Metro users, is discreetly located behind the Lionel-Groulx station.
For now, there are no plans to build others, an STM spokesperson said.
Bourgoin says Montreal’s sustainable mobility agency is evaluating business models that could support building safe bike spaces before making any recommendations.
Ideally, a new approach to public bike storage would be implemented in 2024 as part of the rollout of new mobility hubs, he added.
Knowing that many Montrealers are struggling with the cost of living and finding permanent housing, Shields says she doesn’t hold a grudge against anyone who feels they need to steal bikes to survive.
“I want to hope it was someone who really needed food,” he said.
Assuming the police tell him he has “bigger fish to solve” than pursuing bike theft cases, he says he’s considering filing a complaint as a last resort.
“Now that the police chief himself has had his bike stolen, he might want to prioritize it again,” he said.