National Bicycle Registration Day

When bike stores buy used bikes, do they always check the serial # against some sort of database? It would be cool if someone developed an app where you and simply point your phone at the bike’s serial number, and it immediately looks up the serial against all the bike registries.

Imagine if there was a National Bicycle Registration Day

Police officers could set up along side a popular trail, and people could easily pause and register their bikes. They could use this handy app to scan the serial number, and automatically have it populate into the online form for the biker to fill out right on the side of the trail.

National Bicycle Registration database

Is there one official National Bicycle Registration database? There are several, but none of them are government-official.

  • Bike Index (“215,000 registries and almost 5,500 stolen bicycle recoveries”)
  • (the site doesn’t seem very professional)
  • Project529 (“Our community includes over 400 law enforcement agencies, universities, bike clubs and bike shops around the world”). I’d like to see a breakdown of that 400 number. Is it 10 police departments and 390 bike shops?

There are so many scattered bike registration programs. Do they talk to each other? Do Police Departments actually use any of these systems? If so, do they search multiple databases when recovering bicycles? I’m guessing most police departments use their own local database, and that’s it.

Bicycle registration programs in the Chicagoland area

For the Chicagoland area, there are at least 27 different bike registration databases:

When bikes are stolen, aren’t the bikes most likely moved to another town or city? Wouldn’t Police Departments need to search other systems?

For instance, if my bike was stolen in my town Glen Ellyn. I highly doubt the bike would remain in Glen Ellyn. It would most likely go to another suburb or into the city of Chicago. Maybe even to nearby Milwaukee? I don’t know. How do underground bicycle theft operations work?

If the police department in River Forest recovers a bicycle, would they also check Oak Park’s registry? (Oak Park is next-door to River Forest). I live by Elmhurst, do I need to register my bicycle with Elmhurst too? Can I register my bicycle with all 27 registration systems in Chicago?

My experience with my bike being stolen

My bicycle was once stolen right in front of Chicago’s second largest library, in broad daylight on a busy street. I don’t think I ever registered the bicycle with the Chicago Police Department, so it’s long gone. I gave up, and moved on. I bought another bike—a cheap bike—paying three times less, because if my bike got stolen once, my next bike will probably get stolen too.

Now that I live in Glen Ellyn, there is no bike registration with Glen Ellyn’s Police Department. On Twitter I mentioned that I registered my bike with the Chicago Police Department, but their form’s city field is un-editable. Grayed out to show only Chicago as the default option. I added “Glen Ellyn, IL” to the street field, and used my Glen Ellyn zip code. A workaround, but at least it’s now in the larger city’s database.

People on Twitter made fun of me for doing this. But I have real concerns. Real fears with my bike being stolen. Shouldn’t we all have a better system for recovering bicycles? A national bicycle database would be a step in the right direction.

Checking serial IDs for stolen bikes

This part sounds creepy, but it would be kinda fun to be a city or federal official going around, scanning the serial numbers on parked bicycles to see any of them have been reported stolen. This sounds creepy, because imagine some dude using his camera on the underside of your bike.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“I’m scanning your serial number to see if your bike is stolen”

“Um, it isn’t stolen. I bought this bike new”

Yeah. That would be awkward. But it would overall do a public good. Maybe it’s the part of me who has lost a bike. How great it would be for someone to actually find it.

It might also sound silly for government to spend the money to pay someone to go around scanning bicycle serial numbers. But I think it would be fun, and hopefully worthwhile.


In the meantime, we could get a National Bicycle Registration system. And a national holiday to encourage people to register their bicycles.

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