Salt Lake City police officers handled 1,406 reports for stolen and abandoned bikes last year — but they were only able to return 83 of those to their owners.
But officials hope recent changes to the city’s “cumbersome and antiquated” bike-registration process will encourage more residents to sign up and improve the city’s chances of returning lost property.
“Because of the lack of registration, it was very difficult to match a bike back to its owner,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “And so we wanted to streamline our process and make it more effective so if your bike is stolen and recovered, we can get it back to you.”
The city’s police department donates around 300 to 400 bikes each year because it can’t locate their owners.
The council unanimously approved a new ordinance in April making changes to the registration program, including eliminating the $2 bike fee and the use of paper forms.
Now that retailers and residents can register their bikes online for free at www.slcpd.com, Salt Lake City Police Department Detective Keith Horrocks said returning someone’s bike could be as easy as looking up its serial number on the department’s central online database.
As of Thursday, just a few days into the new program, 143 bicycles had been registered with the Salt Lake City Police Department. That’s just a fraction of the number of bikes in the city, but it’s a start, Horrocks said.
“We’re already seeing a greater success with this new format in the amount of registries,” he said. “Now, you know, we’re out there pushing it, too. So we don’t know if it’s the ease of the registration or that we’re actually making a push. Either way, registries are up, so we’re happy.”
State law requires all counties and cities to have bicycle licensing procedures, and it’s technically unlawful to ride a bike in Salt Lake that hasn’t been registered with the city. But Biskupski said the changes to the registration system shouldn’t be seen as a way to enforce those rules.
“By getting people to register and having it be free, more bikes will be in our system and we’ll be more able to return a bike if it does get stolen — that’s really what was driving this,” she said. “It had nothing to do with driving home some sort of ordinance.”
Biskupski encouraged even nonresidents who ride their bikes in Salt Lake City to register online, just in case. And those who have already registered their bikes with a paper form should re-register, since the old system was inconsistent, she added.
Overall, she said she hopes the new processes will help both visitors and residents experience the city as a more bike-friendly environment.
“I think [the new process] sends a clear message to the bikers of Salt Lake City and those who come here to recreate on bicycles that we care about the bike community and we want to be a good partner to the bike community,” Biskupski said. “And this is one of the ways we can be a very good partner to those that get around on bicycles or recreate on bicycles.”