Locking and Theft

Bike theft is common everywhere, and Philadelphia has an especially high rate of bicycle theft, so it’s important that you lock your bike properly.

What To Do If Your Bike Is Stolen

  • Report the theft to the police and obtain a police report.
  • If you have registered your bike with any other bike registration systems, report it stolen there.
  • Keep an eye on bike sale postings on Craigslist. If you see your bike posted there, contact the police. In this instance, some people have had success in buying their bikes back from thieves. However, this encourages future theft and we do not recommend vigilante sting operations.

If you live in Philadelphia, you can report your bike’s theft to the Philadelphia Stolen Bikes Facebook group.

How To Lock Your Bike

There is no way to lock your bike that will guarantee it will not be stolen. But there are easy ways to lock your bike that will make your bike harder to be stolen, encouraging thieves to look for easier targets elsewhere.

Proper Bike Locking

This bike is locked well. Everything that could be easily removed is secured: the U-lock secures the frame and one wheel to the pole, and the cable secures the second wheel to the U-lock. The seat requires an Allen key to remove, and the rider took the front and rear bike lights with him. If the seat was quick-release, the rider would have taken it with him or threaded a cable through the seat.

The pole (top not shown) has a sign at the top preventing the bike and U-lock from being lifted up and over the top of the pole. And the pole is securely cemented in the ground, and not made of a material that could be easily cut (like a tree or chain-link fence).

Where to Lock Your Bike

You may lock your bike to the following.

  • Bike racks placed in the sidewalk, or bike corrals placed in the street.
  • Public street poles or parking meters, so long as you do not block the pedestrian right-of-way; i.e., prevent people or wheelchairs from easily getting past your bike.
  • Parking signs designating handicapped parking locations.

You are prohibited from locking your bike to the following.

  • Trees. In addition to it being illegal, locks damage trees and this encourages thieves to cut or knock down trees in order to steal your bike.
  • Objects on private property. This includes railings or fences on private property, the little fences around trees embedded in sidewalks, and chain link fences.
  • Bike racks placed on private property. These racks’ availability are at the discretion of the property owner.
  • The railings of trolley stations in the middle of Girard Avenue.
  • Other places where the City or SEPTA has erected No Bike Parking signs.

“No Bike Parking” signs are not permitted to be placed on city or Parking Authority street signs, and locked bicycles are not allowed to be removed from sign poles or street furniture that are in the public “right of way”, including the sidewalk.

Other Tips To Protect Your Bike

  • Try to avoid locking your bike somewhere overnight, even in Center City or in front of your house.
  • When locking in public, lock up in well-lit, well-trafficked areas.
  • Take your bike lights and panniers with you when you lock up.
  • Record your bicycle’s serial number and take photos of you with your bicycle, so you can prove ownership if it is stolen.
  • Your police district may offer bicycle registration services, which will also help its recovery should it be stolen. Call your local district office to ask about bicycle registration.
  • There is an ever-growing constellation of gadgets, gizmos, and systems designed to help you secure your bike and track it if it is stolen. They include GPS tracking devices, QR codes, and more. Look online or talk to your local bike shop for more information.
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