The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported there were 188,698 bike thefts across the United States of America in 2008.
The figure comes from the most recent available data, which was published in the 2008 annual report Crime in the United States.
The bike theft equates to 3.4 percent of all annual larceny thefts, which is slightly up from the previous year. The numbers are still small compared to motor vehicle theft, which makes up 26 percent of all larceny theft, however, auto crime is on the decline by roughly 10 percent.
The Crime in the United States annual report details crime statistics collected from over 17,000 police and other law enforcement agencies. The FBI does not analyze or interpret the statistics nor speculate on crime trends. Dr. James Alan Fox, Criminologist at Northeastern University speculated on why bike theft could be on the rise.
“Alternative transportation is becoming more popular relative to driving cars,” Fox said. “Car theft is down about 10 percent and that may be because, right now, that market is far greater for bikes than it is for cars. With gas prices the way they are, people are traveling less by car then before.”
Fox correlated increased bike theft to the current popularity for cities to become more bike-friendly. More and more cities nationwide are promoting cycling as a healthy activity and a greener alternative form of transportation, implementing cycling facilities, installing bike racks and on-street bike parking outside of downtown businesses to promote riding to work.
“The more available bikes there are, the more poorly guarded there are,” Fox said. “Bike racks make bikes more accessible and easier to find. They allow people to centralize a whole host of bikes in one place and the thieves can take their pick.”
Transportation Alternatives estimated that more than 230,000 people road their bikes daily in New York City last year, up 28 percent from 2008. The organization believes that it has contributed to the increase by expanding, increasing and improving the quality of bike lanes in the New York City. The downside? New York City police records estimate a 35 percent increase in the number of reported bike thefts compared to this time last year, according to the New York Times.