Chilliwack bike owners lined up outside the former Target store Saturday to register with 529 Garage.
More than 90 showed up with bikes in hand to find out more at the free registration event in the mall.
The healthy turnout shows people are “ready to drive down the numbers” of bike thefts plaguing the community, said Coun. Jason Lum.
“People didn’t just want to sit around complaining but chose to do something about it by showing up,” said Lum.
A mobile app that can safeguard and recover stolen merchandise is the idea behind Project 529 Garage. It includes a stolen bike registry using a phone app to help protect bicycles from theft by recording distinguishing features, as well as a way to help bring the stolen ones home.
“This is an idea whose time has come, and I was so proud,” said Lum.
“The message from Chilliwack was that bike thieves suck, and as a city we’re going to do something about it.”
Seeing the numbers and diversity of cyclists who showed up in Chilliwack made it an “awesome” day for 529 Garage founder J Allard.
As a tech guy, credited with inventing the X-box, Allard said he came up with the idea for 529 after he became a victim of bike theft himself. Within a few days, his vacation was ruined, his identity had been stolen and his racing bike was fenced on eBay.
These days he happily attends a few 529 signup meetings a year in the Lower Mainland to watch the numbers in the network grow.
“I like to help communities get it off the ground,” he said.
There were so many volunteers, they could have easily registered 1000 bikes, Allard said. There were event volunteers from Restorative Justice, RCMP, members of Crime Prevention Services, and new RCMP recruits out in force registering bikes with Project 529.
“The work they did was key,” he said, referring to the bike registrations, and bike safety education.
The lock demos were a big hit in Chilliwack as well, making it clear just how easy it was for thieves to snip through cable locks. Many were surprised and it was a crucial take-away.
Within a 60 km radius of Chilliwack, Allard estimated there were 14,900 bikes registered, sporting the handy-dandy Project 529 shield on their rides. It acts as a visible deterrent.
“The more people register, the more effective it is.”
The registration events often become a “flashpoint,” of sorts for people to start the conversation.
“Chilliwack is clearly a community of people who care about each other and this problem,” Allard said. “It was great to see such energy in the room.”
He figures at least 300 people stopped by to talk about bike safety, bike locks and the registry. Chilliwack became one of 13 communities in B.C. getting on-board.
“The team did a great job.”
How it all works it once a registered bike is stolen, it takes a few taps on a smart phone to get the word out online, in a special alert sent simultaneously to the 529 biking community, police and insurance.
It’s like an A-P-B goes out for the bikes that are registered, with photos of the bike, 529 shield number and distinguishing marks.
A map of where the bike was stolen pops up alerting people immediately within about a 16-km radius of the crime. In minutes, the victim can capture everything they need to report it to police and the community to help them find their bike.
Recording a serial number is the key and vital part of the program, along with the tamper-resistant stick-on shield that also identifies a Project 529 protected bike on the registry.
The serial number and shield number prove ownership and will help police close the file.
To follow up further, check out more about the anti-theft project at project529.com/garage or if you missed the event last week, register in person at any of three participating bike shops in Chilliwack, Pedal Sport, Jack’s Cycle or Vedder Mountain Bike Co.