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The National Bike Registry is an nationwide registry of bikes with identifying information (serial numbers, make/model, owner information) in the US that is intended to help identify stolen or impounded bikes. There are of course other bike registries such as the recent Bike Index, many municipal registries, and the International Bike Registry.

Are these registries effective, both at reducing bike theft (i.e. if you put a sticker on your bike thieves are less likely to steal it) or in tracking down stolen bikes?

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I think these schemes need a critical mass to be effective. Possibly the ideal (from a registration perspective) would be to have the same kind of thing as a central automobile database, but for bikes. But that brings its own issues... –  PeteH Jun 25 at 7:01
    
One of the biggest problems is that there are so many competing registries. I just signed up at 'mybikenumber.com', but I have no idea if it's used by the local police. It would be great to see a rundown of the different services. How they are run and how (if?) they work. –  Popup Jun 25 at 12:43
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Relevant XKCD Although I can see why it would be so hard to set up an official database, because there just isn't that much at stake. Most people own bikes that are worth less than $300. And theft rates are pretty low, especially outside large cities because it's not financially sound to transport stolen bikes to other cities for sale, and selling a bike in town is too risky if the population is too small. –  Kibbee Jun 25 at 13:28

2 Answers 2

Its hard to say for a few reasons, but I'd be inclined to tend towards its not very effective:

1) People have to be aware of it.

2) It doesn't physically provide any security.

3) The people who use this are likely to use it on nicer bikes so it could act as an attracting mark.

As far as I can tell, for the most part, the stickers could easily be removed or the bikes could be stripped for parts or more likely just used as is in a city (where delivery boys or whatever need cheap bikes frequently and don't really care where they're from, or whatever) - the bike would have to go through a bike shop which saw the sticker, and on top of that, did query the number in order to make use of it. Or, recovering an impounded bike.

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Another point, semi related to the first, is that ideally there can only be one of these schemes. Your last sentence - the last thing a bike shop is going to want to do is to check through five or six databases with this query. Exactly the same goes for a cop. I mention this because in the UK there are a few such schemes, seemingly in competition. –  PeteH Jun 25 at 9:58

The point of the National Bike Registry, and similar schemes, isn't so much to prevent theft as it is to make it (sometimes) possible to recover a bike after it's been stolen. Police departments do recover a lot of bikes; but, since it's usually impossible to trace ownership, most of them end up in police auctions. The bike registries help to solve this problem, so that if your bike winds up in the hands of the police, there's at least a fair chance they'll be able to get it back to you. If the tag is still on the bike, the cops (or a bike shop) won't have to look in five or six different databases. They'll know which one to check. But I agree it would be much better to have a single national (or better yet, worldwide) database.

I have a nice bike, and I know that there's no single way to prevent losing it to the creeps who go around stealing bikes. But the more I do, the better my chances are.

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