Canada’s crooked ordinance is leaving bike owners stranded in crime-plagued cities

Fremont Don Bosco Catholic High School teacher Anthony Staley hoped to get his bike back after dropping it off at a bike repair shop in Guelph, Ontario. That bike was taken off a bike rack Tuesday afternoon, and he was shocked to find it back in his possession Wednesday morning.

However, for many of Canada’s 85 percent of cyclists, ride-free is not necessarily in the cards.

Municipal authorities across the country are removing virtually every bike rack, parking pad and bike box in a bid to clean out illegal parking and clarify parking zones, MLive.com reported, but the move has come with one major hitch: City and provincial regulations do not help cyclists get their bike back.

Aware that their jurisdiction does not trump city transportation rules, some cities have taken the extraordinary step of arranging take-back days, which only connect the thief with the bike they have seized.

Guelph police, who posted the story on Twitter, do have what they call the “Feel Good Button,” a computer-generated means of getting a bike back for those not put out by the theft, who may be too embarrassed to make a report.

“You get through that physical and the fear and the distress and you know at some point you’ve got to just relax and focus on the task at hand,” Officer Ron Elliott, the department’s bicycle officer, told MLive.com.

Guelph is not the only city that has seized bikes with few grace. Toronto Public Works & Infrastructure tweeted in March: “BCMP, Toronto Police Services and TTC police, all departments report bicycle thefts in Toronto that are part of our surveillance network.” They ended the tweet with the hashtag #blockedout.

This past summer, thieves took nearly 50 percent more bikes from Canadian cities than they did in 2015, according to the firm Bicycle Entrepreneurs. The firm released a list this month highlighting the most popular cities for bike thefts:

1. Toronto

2. Ottawa

3. Kitchener-Waterloo

4. Guelph

5. St. Catharines

6. Windsor

7. Regina

8. Saskatoon

9. Winnipeg

10. Edmonton

Anderson Boothman, a Toronto-based cyclist, told MLive.com that whenever someone cycles down his main street, they can no longer count on getting lost.

“I will park one side of the street and then walk up to another side and stop a bike and will actually put a bag of groceries in the basket of the back wheel so that I can walk up to them,” Boothman said. “At first I was a little suspicious of a couple guys standing on the median of my street, but now I’m OK with it as long as they take note of where I’m going and look out for one another’s bikes when I try to return to my spot.”

The city of Windsor, Ontario, recently adopted the Feel Good Button, which includes a virtual lock system where riders can immediately contact the police via text or email to report a stolen bike. The council passed the program by a unanimous vote last month.

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