Tuesday, October 10, 2006

bike registration and theft

Ann Arbor requires that all bikes are registered with the city clerk at a cost of $2.50/bike (unless that fee has increased lately?). The process is kind of a pain. On top of that, we have a sort of Big Brother paranoia and a general laziness in regards to all things bureaucratic. As a result we've never registered a bike and have had one stolen with no recourse.

Today we came across a couple DIY stolen bike recovery efforts. Portland and Seattle both seem to be having some success with online bike theft reporting lists. These lists strip all the inconvenience and paperwork out of reporting a bike theft. If your bike is stolen, you send an email with the pertinant information and it shows up an a weekly email. Recovery depends heavily on community participation. Privacy and authenticity may be concerns, but convenience and publicity would improve.

This got us wondering if something similar would be useful in Ann Arbor. Ideas on the table include:

* replicating existing programs by posting bike thefts either on this website or somewhere else. This is not a replacement of the city's official registration, but may succeed where the city doesn't by making the thefts more public and getting more people to keep an eye out for stolen bikes. The miracle of RSS means it could be easily broadcast other places.

* linking the thefts to google maps might help identify risk areas, trends, or just fun data to geek out on.

* the service could be expanded to allow unofficial registration of bikes. You get the same advantage of having your data recorded somewhere without the hassle of dealing with the city.

Does this sound like an idea worth pursuing? We're not asking anyone to sign up for a committee or volunteer coding time. The set-up should be a breeze. But the whole thing doesn't amount to much if there people aren't willling to report thefts and help others who have. Your thoughts on this would be much appreciated.


Bruce Fields said...

Well, I've nothing against that idea, it just sounds a bit like overkill for something that isn't really a solution. Bike registration isn't exactly major bureaucracy--it's just a matter of stopping by city hall and filling out one form. Didn't take more than 5 minutes if I remember right....

Bruce Fields said...

uh, for "solution" above, read "problem". Typing too fast....

Kelli said...

Apparently bike registration is now $8, according the city clerk fees below.


(There are a few days at the beginning of the fall semester at least when UM students can register their bikes for free, on campus.)