The Dominion Post
Can technology stop scourge of bicycle thefts?
CYCLISTS share the everpresent dread of one day discovering their bicycle missing from the bike rack, or finding only the skeletal remains of its wheel-less frame.
Bike theft is a constant problem with bikes swiped from outside coffee shops, on university campuses and from properties.
These days, the standard U-lock is no match for sawwielding thieves, who are also quick to yank a bike from a locked rack on the back of a car or break through a garage door.
But if a lock won’t stop bike thieves, a growing crop of entrepreneurs are hoping that new technology will outsmart them.
‘‘Everybody who does urban cycling gets their bike stolen at some point,’’ said Niko Klansek, founder of FlyKly, which makes Bluetooth-connected bike parts. ‘‘We have to live with this until we figure it out.’’
Startups are building hi-tech locks, alarms and tracking devices that aim to deter thieves and help cyclists recover their stolen wheels.
Wi-MM has built a bike alarm that’s concealed inside a water bottle holder attached to the bike frame.
The device will make a blaring siren-like sound if the bike is moved or tampered with after it has been locked. The owner receives a text message that reads: ‘‘Your bike is being stolen as you read this message.’’
The hope, co-founder and chief technical officer Les Levitt said, is that the owner can stop the theft in action, if the alarm didn’t scare the thief off.
‘‘It’s like the barking dog – the thief will move on to the next house,’’ Levitt said.
The Bike+, as it’s called, can be mounted to most bicycles, but Wi-MM is also working with bike brand Specialized to build a bicycle that contains the technology inside the frame.
‘‘It’s ultimately the bike of the future,’’ Levitt said.
FlyKly is also trying to build the bike of the future. The company makes wheels that include a motor and connect to a smartphone app.
With a swipe of the app, the rider can control pedalling speed and braking, and also lock the rear wheel. And every bike is registered to a user through their smartphone, so if a stranger starts pedalling a bike, FlyKly is alerted.
When bikes are stolen, they are painfully difficult to recover, victims and cycling advocates say. If the owner doesn’t have the bicycle’s serial number, pictures and proof of ownership, it’s nearly impossible to get the bike back.
Bike theft victims often rely on social media, not the police, to track down their bike, which may end up many kilometres from home.
Tracking devices could help recover stolen bicycles by marking their location on a map, no matter who is riding it, hauling it in the back of a truck or selling it.
The Wi-MM device includes GPS and works on a cellular network, so as long as the bike is within range of a celltower, its exact location can be tracked, showing up as a red dot on a map.