The risk of bike theft is often cited as a reason for not purchasing a bike. Fear of bike theft severely limits cycling mobility in many cities. Those who enjoy recreational cycling with expensive bikes rarely use their high-end bike for daily mobility, citing the fear of bike theft. Fear of bike theft also has motivated city governments and private ventures to invest in protected bike structures. However larger and permanent bike structures are difficult to replicate at scale because of their size, expense, and extensive public space that some may occupy. Fear of bike theft has also been cited by parents as a reason why they are unwilling to let their children ride their bikes to school. But are these fears of bike theft justified? What are the patterns in bike theft in the city? How many bikes are stolen per year? Why types of bikes? Which neighbourhoods and under which conditions?  What is the probability of bike theft per neighbourhood? Or by type of bike? Or time of day? Our research project aims to summarize what is known about the bike theft problem in Barcelona. 

We started by analyzing the bicycle thefts that took place in the city of Barcelona during the 2021. For that, we contacted the local police (Guardia Urbana and Mossos d’esquadra) who gave us the bicycle theft reports of the year 2021.  The report is available in English and Catalan . The main figures of the study can be interacted with below.

We are currently developing a citizen science platform that will help with:

  1. Raising the awareness of the bicycle theft issue and the necessity of reporting thefts.
  2. Recollecting theft data from the users and helping them to recover their bicycles when possible.
  3. Obtaining and merging theft data from different sources, to allow more in depth research on the topic.

We would like to hire a master student to focus his/her master thesis on bicycle theft. He/she would develop a field experiment with locked and unlocked bikes to learn about the risk of bike theft in various neighbourhoods. We would like to explore a research design that would leave real bikes to see if or how long it takes for the bike to be stolen. The expenses associated with the (potentially stolen) bikes would be covered by the research program, however the student would need to lead the research design and implementation. We may need to think about multiple research designs and strategies to efficiently use our resources, working with both data reported by owners of stolen bikes as well as experimental data that we may generate ourselves using field experiments and direct observation.  Please, get in contact with us if you are interested.