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Busting Up Bike Theft: Project 529’s Petition Targets eBay, Craigslist

Friday, November 28, 2014



Project 529 aims to kick bike theft to the curb by demanding eBay and Craigslist get serious with sellers of online goods.

Every day in Portland, six bikes are stolen, on average. On Thanksgiving Eve, my beloved road bike almost joined that wretched statistic.

Thieves attempted to steal my bike from atop my car, while I ran an errand on N Williams Ave. I was parked in a small lot behind the United Bicycle Institute, and it was broad daylight. Thanks to locking fork mounts on my Yakima racks, the theft was unsuccessful. The robbers stole the contents of my seat bag—some tubes, canned air, tire levers—and left behind a black hoodie flung atop my car.

I was indeed very grateful on Thanksgiving that the thieves were unsuccessful in stealing my bike and I was able to enjoy my traditional “Cranksgiving” ride with a friend.

Many are not so lucky. Earlier in the week, I reported about Gladys Bikes being broken into and robbed. And every week on Facebook and Twitter I see postings from friends lamenting another stolen bike. It’s outrageous, frustrating, and feels disempowering.

When I worked in the bike industry doing retail sales, one of the number one reasons customers had for not buying nice bikes was the certainty they’d just be stolen. In fact, one summer I asked customers if they’d ever had a bike stolen and almost half of them said yes.

It was heartbreaking to hear—not because I lost a bigger commission; I wasn’t paid commissions. It was heartbreaking because what thieves had stolen from people wasn’t just their bicycle, a machine. Thieves steal the victim’s sense of safety, their confidence, and their joy.

More than $400 million worth of bicycles are stolen throughout the U.S. each year. It’s a massive problem, and it’s been growing. Many people erroneously believe bike thieves are just tweaked-out or down and out addicts looking for a quick fix, and that’s sometimes the case. But lately large organized crime rings have been found to be accountable for a large percentage of that $400 million.

These organized criminals are using online marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist to sell stolen bikes to unknowing consumers with incredibly low risk. It’s easy to turn stolen bikes into cash online. Without serial numbers, it's extremely challenging for victims to identify if a bicycle on an online marketplace is theirs or to demonstrate ownership to engage law enforcement.

Project 529, the Portland-based cycling tech firm is tackling the problem with a petition demanding eBay and Craigslist to require serial numbers on all online bike sales. The petition wraps up at the end of the month, before being pushed to Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist's CEO, and eBay CEO John Donahoe.

“Thieves are using sites like Craigslist and eBay as their personal cash machines to easily sell stolen bicycles to unknowing buyers with little risk,” said Jason Scott co-founder of Project 529.

An article published last week in the Wall Street Journal details just how hard it is for victims to retrieve their stolen bikes.  At the time of publication, Project 529 founder J Allard reported eBay still hadn’t responded to his emails.

The petition currently has just over 50,000 signatures. Whether you ride for pleasure or competition, fitness or fun, commute to work or commune with mountains, you might want to make sure your signature in on that list. Because, speaking from experience, and putting it extremely mildly, bike theft sucks.

Add your signature to the Project 529 petition here.



Üma Kleppinger is a Portland-based copy writer, author and bike addict. A recovering sesquipedalian who writes about life in the saddle and outdoor adventure, she is also the author of Bike Yoga, a flexibility and recovery program for cyclists. When not writing, she can be found riding and racing her mountain bike throughout the Pacific Northwest.


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