Have you registered your bike?

Bikes go missing and abandoned bikes are found all around town throughout the year. Often folks will post on Facebook about a missing or found bike, but those posts don’t usually end in a bike being returned to its owner.

Bike Index Sticker

Bike Index Sticker

Project 529 Sticker

Project 529 Sticker

BikeGuard Sticker

BikeGuard Sticker

Registering your bike with one of the free online systems helps connect missing bikes with their owners. Going through the process of registering means you will have photos, your serial number, and a description of your bike available if it ever goes missing.

There are two main online databases:

  • Bike Index, which is nonprofit and free.

  • Project 529, which recently acquired the National Bicycle Registry. This service is used by lots of local law enforcement agencies to look up the serial numbers of bikes they find. You can register your bike for free with their phone app or web site. They also sell a sticker with a unique code that you can put on your bike to help deter theft, but you don’t have to pay just to register.

Since they are both free, it doesn’t hurt to register with both. I find it easier to use the Project 529 app to take photos and do registrations on the fly. Bike Index registration requires a desktop web browser to upload photos.

A third registry that is run by an asset tag company is called BikeGuard. You can register as many bikes as you want with them and they’ll mail you free stickers.

What info do I need to register?

  • A photo of your bike – this is critical. Project 529 asks for a side view, a photo of you and your bike, a photo of the serial number, and any other photos that show accessories or distinguishing features.

  • Your bike’s serial number, which is usually stamped on the bottom of the bike between the pedals. You’ll need to lie your bike down or flip it over on the handlebars to see this, and you may need to scrub off some dirt to find it. It’s good to take a picture of the serial number as well

  • Make, model, and model year of your bike

  • Your email address.

Where can you register your bike?

  • Online at any time at Bike Index or Project 529;

  • At any Bike Provincetown event during Bike Month in May, at WorldFest in June, or at any Provincetown Bicycle Committee meeting;

  • At the police station. The Provincetown police bike safety web page says “Provincetown residents can get their bikes registered at the Provincetown Police Department for no charge.” I haven’t tried this, so let me know if you have any success.

My bike is missing

  • Call the Provincetown police department at 508-487-1212 and report that your bike has been stolen.

  • If you’ve registered it online, log in to the site and flag it as stolen to alert others that it’s missing.

I found a bike

  • Call the Provincetown police department at 508-487-1212. Tell them the make, model, color, and location. An officer will tag it as abandoned, check to see if it has been reported as stolen, and contact Public Works if it needs to be removed.

  • Add it to Project 529 as a “found bike” here: https://project529.com/garage/recovered_bikes/new

Does this really help?

Both registries claim to successfully reunite thousands of people with their bikes each year. Here in town, nearly 100 abandoned bikes end up in storage with the police each year, so the more bikes that are registered the more likely those bikes might get reunited with their owners.

If you bought your bike from one of the local shops, they should have your bike’s serial number and details in their computer. If you bought it second hand and it has a local bike shop’s sticker on it, the shop will only have the original owner info.

What else can I do?

  • Register your locks as well as your bike. Both online services let you store your lock combination or key code.

  • Make your bike distinctive. A lot of bikes in town look exactly the same. Put straws on the spokes, add a label with you name and contact info, or add other distinctive stickers or accessories. If you have a business card, tape it to the bottom of your seat. It can be hard to identify a bike in a packed bike rack at night, so something reflective that you can spot will also help.

  • Always lock your bike. The unlocked bike is the easiest target for theft, so a locked bike is less likely to end up wandering around town. There are locks in all price ranges available at the bike shops and hardware stores in town.

Take a picture of the serial number on the bottom of your bike. Photo: Project 529

Take a picture of the serial number on the bottom of your bike. Photo: Project 529

Bike 101Rik Ahlberg