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Penticton's reputation as a cycling destination could be at risk due to bike theft

FILE PHOTO- Penticton RCMP Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth points out the location the serial number on most bicycles. Wrigglesworth has been instrumental in starting the 429 Garage bicycle registration program in Penticton.
July 07, 2017 - 9:00 PM

PENTICTON - Penticton is working hard to establish itself as a cycling tourism destination, a move that could prove challenging if the City doesn’t find a way to reduce bike theft.

Travel Penticton marketing manager Austin Weaver says being recognized as a “cycling precinct” is very important as it would allow a greater emphasis to be placed on the importance of cycling within the community. Groups like the Penticton and Area Cycling Association are notable advocates for the cause, but one crime statistic has the potential to give Penticton a black eye when it comes to cycling tourism - bicycle theft.

According to local figures, Penticton leads all Okanagan cities in bicycle theft with the highest rate of bicycle theft per 1,000 people.

Statistics from the Penticton RCMP detachment reveal bicycle thefts down this year over last, but only barely, from 57 in 2016 to 53 in the same period this year. A cooler, wetter spring may have been the only thing preventing thefts from continuing to rise this spring.

Visitors were warned of the bike theft problem last year, prior to the Challenge Penticton race.

Granfondo Axel Merckx in Penticton in 2016.
Granfondo Axel Merckx in Penticton in 2016.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Granfondo Axel Merckx

This year's cycling season is about to begin in earnest in Penticton,with Granfondo this weekend, Challenge Penticton on July 23 and the International Triathlon Union Multisport Championship beginning on Aug. 18 to 27.

Although police often recover many stolen bikes, (tipped off to the theft when they see known property offenders riding expensive bikes costing thousands of dollars), the tourists who had their bicycles stolen and have left the community will no doubt remember their Penticton experience as a negative one.

Penticton RCMP are attempting to deal with bike theft, repeatedly warning residents and tourists about the need to lock and safely store their bikes, and to have them registered through a program such as 529 Garage, a community-based bike registration and recovery service that started serving B.C. in the summer of 2015 when it registered over 20,000 bikes.

With public and private organizations working together, more bikes were seized, more were recovered and more returned. It’s now the largest and most advanced bicycle registration, reporting and recovery system in North America.

FILE PHOTO-Penticton's investment in cycling amenities, such as this community bike station,  could be at risk if the city can't control its high rate of bike theft.
FILE PHOTO-Penticton's investment in cycling amenities, such as this community bike station, could be at risk if the city can't control its high rate of bike theft.

The group hopes to cut bike theft in half by 2025.

The Penticton RCMP recently introduced the 529 app to Penticton cyclists at a bike registry on April 8.

On June 17, Mikes Pawnbrokers teamed up with police to support the program, paying the $5 cost of registrations to the program until mid-July.

Travel Penticton marketing manager Austin Weaver says the group has a blended agenda that focuses on many aspects of the tourism industry and its individual sectors, with cycling tourism (mountain biking and road cycling) identified as an integral piece.

In 2016, Penticton, Summerland and Naramata jointly applied to the Destination B.C. Cooperative Marketing Partnership Program to create the “Chain of Events” marketing initiative. This initiative focuses on promoting and enhancing the region as a cycling destination and is in its second year of a three year agreement.

Weaver wouldn’t specify exactly how much money Travel Penticton invests, only saying, “a significant amount of funds is allocated to the attraction of cyclists to Penticton.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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