#EndBikeTheft: by the numbers

cut u lock on bike rack

Image: 529 Garage

The following is a shortened version of the full report written by Simon Wong, a University of Waterloo Mechatronics Engineering student and member of Cycle Toronto’s Data Visualization Team.


The Toronto Police Service publishes interesting datasets on their public safety data portal and they recently released a dataset on bicycle theft-related crimes. We did a deep dive into the data and found some surprising trends.

  • More than $11,450,000 worth of bicycles were reported to be stolen between 2014 and 2017

  • Only 1.27% of bicycles reported stolen are recovered

  • More than a third of thefts happen on private property

  • Reported thefts have been increasing every year since 2014


Between 2014 and 2017 there were 14,280 bikes reported stolen and 12,615 of those thefts include a reported value. Over the course of the four years, the sum of all reported values of the stolen bicycles amounted to over $11,450,000.

The average value of a stolen bike in Toronto is $907.95— which seems high. This could mean there are a lot of low-value bicycle crimes that aren’t being reported (which is a problem because the police use this data to allocate resources to preventing bicycle theft) or people may be over-reporting the value of their bikes.

Of the 182 recovered bicycles (representing about 1.27% of total bikes reported stolen), 118 had reported values which added up to $120,300. That's an average of about $1,020 per bike, which seems low compared to the total of $11,450,000 in stolen bikes.


Where you store your bicycle is as important as how you lock it. The safest place to keep a bicycle is indoors – however, there were 869 reported breaking and entering offences where bicycles were stolen. Below is a chart showing the types of locations from which bikes are stolen. Apartments/condominiums are the second most common places bicycles are stolen, after streets and roads. If you live in a multi-unit building, consider storing your bicycle in your unit, if you can.

Full list of location types here

Each reported theft is listed with the neighbourhood where the crime occurred: Waterfront Communities comes in first place with almost 1,400 reported incidents over three years. We imagine that the high levels of theft are arritruble to high residential and employment densities and high rates of reported cycling to work. You can revisit our analysis of the 2016 CensusMapper Bike to Work Mode Share Maps.


An interactive heatmap of theft locations can be found in the full report.


Do you know when your bicycle is most likely to be stolen? You might think your bicycle is less safe locked at night but that is not necessarily true.

The graph below shows the number of crimes reported during each hour of the day. It shows that there are more thefts during the day than overnight. However, because the data only represents reported thefts, this data is skewed towards daytime crimes because the victims report theft when they notice their bike is gone and not when it was actually stolen.

Rates of theft seem to slowly rise over the day and peak around 6 p.m. with other spikes corresponding to lunch time and the morning commute, when people are likely to notice a bicycle is missing.

Prevention and Recovery

Do you know what your bicycle’s serial number is? Or where to find it? Knowing the serial number to your bicycle is essential to recovering it if it gets stolen. Your serial number can typically be found on the bottom of your bike, under the bottom bracket shell. Use your serial number to register your bike with the Toronto Police. You’ll also want to add the model, colour, make, and other unique features.

Unfortunately, recovery rates are perpetually low. Of the approximately 14,000 reported thefts between 2014 and 2017, only around 1.27% of stolen bicycles were recovered. recovery stats

What do all these data tell us? That bike theft is at crisis levels. Prevention is important, but we need to be doubling down on high volumes of theft and poor recovery rates. That’s why we’re working to bring 529 Garage to Toronto. It’s a bike registry and recovery system that connects the cycling community to help recover stolen bikes.

In the meantime, we recommend a heavy-duty U-Lock or chain lock to secure your bike. They are sturdier than cable locks and are worth the investment to reduce the chance of theft. Sheldon Brown has a great webpage on lock-strategy. Global Cycling Network has a good video as well.


Want to be a part of this community-powered system to #EndBikeTheft?

  • Donate by December 31 and get a charitable tax receipt.

  • Follow us on social media and spread the word to your #BikeTO networks.

  • Learn more about our three-step action plan to #endbiketheft.

  • Share your own bike theft story by emailing us at media [at] cycleto [dot] ca