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Bicycle theft is often dismissed as a minor crime, an inconvenience, or an accepted risk associated with urban living. This phenomenon discourages people from buying a bicycle and shifting to active travel. Research in the UK has shown that once bike users suffer from bike theft, they are less likely to replace the bike with a new one. To be precise, 24% of bike users that experienced bike theft did not buy a bike again [1]. In a survey by the Government of Catalonia, respondents identified the risk of bike theft as one of the primary reasons why they do not use a bike for transportation, second only to interaction with motor vehicles [2].

During the last months, Laura Vetter has been studying the European literature related to the topic and obtained the official data from Barcelona’s authorities from a formal request. The result has been Bike Theft Barcelona 2021 – a report that summarizes patterns of bike theft in the city. (Also available in Catalan). In the document, Barcelona’s bicycle theft is studied by districts and neighborhoods, by seasonal and by daily patterns and by reported location.

870 bicycles were reported as stolen during the 2021, averaging to more than 2 bicycles per day. It is an increase from the 826 reported in 2019 or the 608 in 2020 [3]. A comparative analysis with other eight European cities finds that the number of reported stolen bicycles is low, and that under-reporting in Barcelona is likely to be severe.

 City Lab Barcelona plans to repeat this study every year, in order to monitor progress on this topic, and build a city-wide conversation about how to address this problem.  As cycling policies gain a new centrality in efforts to address climate change, so too must more attention be devoted to combating bike theft.

[1] R. Buehler and J. Pucher, Cycling for sustainable cities. MIT Press, 2021.
[2] Generalitat de Catalunya, “Enquesta barometre de la bicicleta 2019.” , 2021.
[3] El Independiente, “El agujero negro de las bicicletas robadas.” link.

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