News / Vancouver

Vancouver’s bike-recovery app garners 5,000 users in first 6 months

People who register their bikes using the 529 Garage app have a better than 60 per cent chance of recovering their bike if it gets stolen.

A community policing officer records the serial number of a bike and affixes a Project 529 sticker on it on Oct. 26, 2015.

Emily Jackson/Metro File

A community policing officer records the serial number of a bike and affixes a Project 529 sticker on it on Oct. 26, 2015.

The creator of a bike-recovery app didn’t know how serious the bike-theft problem in Vancouver was until he launched the campaign six months ago.

As many as seven bikes a day are reported stolen in Vancouver, said J Allard, the former chief experience officer at Microsoft, who created the app called 529 Garage. The app enables people to register their bikes serial numbers and defining features, creating a database that all app users can access. This makes identifying and reporting stolen bikes easier.

“I had no idea the problem was so big in this city,” said Allard, who splits his time between Portland and Vancouver.

The app has proved popular, with over 5,000 bikes registered so far. That’s half of the 10,000 goal 529 Garage made in partnership with Vancouver police half a year ago.

Vancouver police are urging cyclists this week to register for the app to mark Bike to Work Week, which runs May 30 to June 5.

Of the 16 registered bikes that have been stolen, 10 have been recovered and returned to owners, according to a release from VPD. In addition, one more bike was recovered Monday afternoon, according to Allard.

Amazingly, there have been seven recoveries in the past 10 days in B.C., according to Allard. One of those reunions did not involve the cops at all – someone who had bought the bike on Craigslist saw the 529 Garage sticker and searched the sticker number using the app. When he saw that the bike had been stolen, he returned it to its original owner.

Bike theft is a $500 million problem in North America, estimated Allard, who has studied the problem for three years. The more people that download the app, the more people can keep an eye out for stolen bikes, he explained.  

“The software itself carries very little power. The power of the solution comes from the community.”

The willingness of residents, local government, and police to adopt Project 529 was integral to its success, said Allard. He did not expect to launch the app in a major urban centre like Vancouver until later in the campaign.

“We didn’t think the first city would be as big as Vancouver, but Vancouver [was] the first one to raise their hand and say we’re very serious about this,” he said.

The 529 Garage app is now available in eight B.C. municipalities:

Vancouver

West Vancouver

Surrey

Richmond

Nanaimo

Prince George

Kelowna

Kamloops

Penticton

Police officers and City staff will be on hand to help people register their bikes for free during Bike to Work Week (May 30 to June 4).

Monday, May 30

2120 Cambie Street

9:00 – 11:00 a.m.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, May 31

Broadway and Victoria

7:30 – 10:00 a.m.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Nelson Park – Nelson and Thurlow

7:30 – 10:00 a.m.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 1

Vanier Park

7:30 – 10:00 a.m.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 2

Dunsmuir and Beatty

7:30 – 10:00 a.m.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Woodland Park – 705 Woodland Drive

7:30 – 10:00 a.m.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Friday, June 3

Creekside Community Centre

7:30 – 10:00 a.m.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 4

Marpole Community Day – Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre

(W.59th Avenue & Oak)

11:00 a.m – 3 p.m.

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