No need to gin this one up: bike theft is a huge problem. Next to safety concerns and the weather, few things are more likely to deter a potential bike commuter—or to enrage a current one—quite like the prospect of having his or her ride stolen or stripped of its parts. Nearly everyone who rides on a regular basis has a story.
For starters you can register your bike’s serial number with your local police department. In New York, for example, the NYPD will even engrave a unique ID on your frame and affix a hard-to-remove decal.
But let’s face it: most of us don’t do that. It’s a tedious process that takes time and effort, and most people would just as soon take the risk.
That’s where Bike Index comes in. This free, open source bike registry—which just reached its first Kickstarter goal—aims to make registering your bike as easy as whipping out your iPhone and taking a couple pictures.
To register, you enter a few basic attributes—serial number, manufacturer, color, wheel size, etc.—and, voila!, there’s a public record of your ownership in a searchable database. If your bike is stolen, you can put out an alert. If you’re buying a used bike, you can check the registry first to see if it’s stolen.
Founded by bike shop employees from Chicago, Bike Index aims to be a universal alternative to the limited patchwork of proprietary databases that bike shops currently use to screen for stolen goods.
“We created the Bike Index because we were frustrated that cities and companies continue to devote resources to inaccessible, difficult-to-navigate proprietary bike registries that do little to fight the realities of theft,” reads a blog post on the website.
Other alternatives include the National Bike Registry, which requires a registration fee and is only searchable by law enforcement, and U.K.-based Bike Shepherd, which is free and offers the option to buy a bike ID kit with scannable QR code.
The Bike Index hopes to partner with bike shops around the country so that every new purchase can be registered on the spot. The site also makes it easy to transfer ownership if you sell your ride.
Although still in its startup phase, Bike Index looks like it might be a winner—but only if enough people sign up.