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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Bike Theft and How to Prevent It

Bicycle Theft Prevention and Resources

Graphic of bike locked at rackBike theft is getting a lot of attention recently - and with good reason. Each year nearly 3,000 bikes are reported stolen to the police, which is just a fraction of all bikes stolen.  Bike theft discourages people from riding their bikes.  The City of Portland wants to see more people using bikes for transportation and has compiled these key resources for keeping your bike safe and secure.

Record Your Serial Number

picture of serial number location

Step one: Find your serial number. If recovered (and many stolen bikes are recovered) the police will not be able to return your bike to you without your serial number.

Not sure where your serial number is located? It's probably on the bottom of your bike where the pedals meet (see picture, right). If you can't find it, check these other locations.

Step two: Now use the input form below to send yourself an email with your bike make and model and the serial number. Then you'll have an email with the pertinent information to help recover a stolen bike. (Just hit refresh on your browser to input more than one bike.)  

 7 Tips to Keep Your Bike Safe

bicycle picture1. Always use a U-lock. Never use only a cable lock.

2. Lock your wheel and frame together (see card for example). 

3. Use a bike rack (sign poles are not as secure).

4. When possible, do not park your bike on the sidewalk or street overnight.

5. Lock your bike in a well-lit and well-traveled area.

6. Take lights and other easily removed items with you.

7. Write down your serial number. It's also very helpful to have a picture of your bicycle and, if possible, the original sales receipt.

If you use a proper lock, and follow proper locking techniques, it is unlikely you will ever lose your bike to a thief. There are simply too many other unlocked or poorly locked bikes out there for a thief to waste time trying to steal your well-locked bike. 

bike theft card

 What to do if your bike is stolen?

This information comes from

If your bike is stolen, you can take heart in knowing that nearly half of all stolen bikes are recovered by law enforcement. However, you will need to take some steps if you hope to recover your bike.

1. Notify law enforcement by filing a stolen bike report. This is where your file documenting ownership of your bike will first be utilized—you will want to provide law enforcement with the bike’s serial number and a photo of the bike.

2. Conduct your own search for the bike. Look on online sites, such as Craigslist and eBay. Be aware that thieves will sometimes steal a bike in one city and advertise it for sale in another city. Some thieves will attempt to evade detection by the owner by providing a vague description of the bike in the ad.

Be sure to check Stolen Bike Listings for your bike. This is a great service here in Portland.

3. Bring a photo of the bike and make the rounds of the pawn shops and second-hand stores in your area. If a thief tries to sell your stolen bike to them, the may recognize the bike. If they have already bought the bike, the documentation you have filed, along with the stolen bike report, will be proof that the bike is yours, and you will be entitled to recover the bike through procedures established by state law—check with your local law enforcement agency for those procedures. Despite what anyone may tell you, you are not required to pay a pawn shop for return of your stolen bike.

4. You should also make the rounds of the bike shops in your area. Thieves will sometimes attempt to sell stolen bikes to bike shops, especially if the shop sells used bikes. If you notify the shops, and can provide a photo, the shops may notify law enforcement if they see a bike matching your stolen bike.

5. Finally, check the police impound yard from time to time—your bike will end up there if it is recovered. Law enforcement should notify you, but just in case they’re not as diligent as you, it won’t hurt to look. Also, check the impound yard of your local transit agency—you’d be surprised how many bikes are left behind on buses.

6. If you do find your bike, notify law enforcement for assistance in recovering your bike. If law enforcement recovers your bike, they should notify you, based upon the stolen bike report you filed. You will need your stolen bike report and proof that the bike belongs to you before law enforcement will release it to you—thus, the importance of documenting your ownership of the bike and keeping it in a file.

For information about insuring your bike against loss from theft, and filing a claim if your bike is stolen, see Insurance Advice.

Bicycle Registry Services

There are many bicycle registry services that allow you to register your bike and its serial number in case it is ever stolen. Several of these registries are working with the Portland Police Bureau to make recovering a stolen bike and stopping future thefts easier.

Portland Police Bureau Bike Theft Task Force

Project 529 - Quickly register your bike wherever you are. - The Bike Index makes stolen bikes harder to sell and easier to recover by making sure important information about your bike is there when you need it the most.


 Creative Bicycle Parking Solutions

For many of us without a garage, shed, or other secure bike parking place, finding a safe place to protect our bikes can be challenging. Luckily, many people have come up with creative solutions to safely secure bicycles in their homes. There are also a lot of DIY solutions out there and a number of off-the-shelf products for sale.

Not everyone has room for bike storage in their homes or workplace - parking outside may be the only option.

The City provides short-term parking (e.g. racks on the curb) and since the 1990's has required property developers to provide long-term (covered and secure) bike parking onsite.  If you live or work in a building constructed before 2000 we suggest:

  • Speaking to your landlord or property manager about adding bike parking.

  • Talking to other tenants to see if they also need secure bike parking (property managers may be more responsive to tenants requesting essential services as part of their leases).

  • Checking with nearby buildings to see if they have secure space available.

 Bicycle Theft Resources

For even more detail about securing your bike, check out this Bike Theft Prevention article from the City of Portland Crime Prevention Program's webpage.  

Also visit's Bike Theft Central.

For a great video on how to lock your bike, head over to San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's page and check out their video.

SF bike video
Click the screen grab image to check out the video.

For more information about this website contact:
Scott Cohen
(503) 823-5345