Tom Babin in Vancouver
Tuesday 7 November 2017 07.30 GMT
The bicycle was nothing impressive – an ageing mountain bike worth only a couple of hundred dollars – but Vancouver police officer Rob Brunt remembers it clearly. The owner, clad head-to-toe in cheap green waterproofs, on her way to work at the market on Granville Island, stopped Brunt to express worry about her bike. It was locked to a nearby rack, behind a car park and out of sight of passersby – a perfect place for thieves. It was her primary mode of transport and she couldn’t afford to lose it.
The next time Brunt saw the woman, she was crestfallen. The bike had indeed been stolen, forcing her to miss a few days of work and get around on a borrowed ride. She was scraping together the money for a new lock.
The woman’s story stuck with Brunt. “I learned from that the price of a bike is not indicative of the value to the owner,” he says.
That was two years ago. Today, a remarkable turnaround has taken place on Granville Island, which was at the time the worst spot in Canada’s worst city for bike theft. Since then, bike thefts have declined by more than 70%, an incredible improvement in a problem that is pervasive in nearly every major city in the world. Similar reductions across Vancouver are offering hope that something can be done to combat a phenomenon that stymies the growth of bike culture.