If you ask Parisians what the worst thing about cycling in the capital is, many will say “getting your bike stolen.”
Paris is notorious for its high bicycle theft rates. So far in 2020, nearly 5,000 bikes have been reported stolen to the police, more than the average annual number of around 4,600 thefts (13 thefts per day).
The increasing number of thefts could be related to the bicycle boom caused by first the 2019 winter transport strikes and the subsequent Covid-19 health crisis, which both pushed Parisians to choose the bike over other means of transport.
But there are ways to reduce your chances of being a victim of theft. Here's a list.
1. Don't buy an expensive bicycle
For a start don't buy a really expensive bike, unless you know that you can keep it indoors and never will have to leave it unguarded outside.
You can easily get a second hand bike for less than €100 or an average standard bike from a corner bike shop or a chain like Decathlon. Just don't go for the fancy race bike (honestly, how often will you get out of the capital to make real use of it?)
2. Invest in the lock
Instead of spending money on your bike, get a really good lock.
U-locks are the best, according to French bike shop Cyclable.
Get a solid U-lock that doesn't easily break. If you want to see how quickly a thief can snap a lock without drawing suspicion in Paris, check out this video from French daily Le Parisien. The thief undoes the lock in no more than 13 seconds, while looking like he's just unlocking the bike.
A REGARDER ABSOLUMENT
Une filière du vol de vélo identifiée en 48h par une journaliste, et en flagrance !
— Emmanuel Tronchet (@dudhist) September 21, 2020
3. Be smart when locking the bike
Lock the bike to a structure that's permanently attached to the ground (so not a really thin tree as thieves will just saw through it).
Check that the bike stand has not been sawed through at the bottom, a trick that thieves routinely make use of in Paris.
And lock the whole frame, not just the wheel, unless you want this to happen:
— Altis ▶ (@AlTi5) April 26, 2020
4. Mark your bike
Around 150,000 stolen bikes are found in France every year, but only 3 percent of these are identifiable and can be returned to their owners, according to Cyclable.
As of 2021, marking new bikes will be mandatory, but you can easily get one now. Ask at the bike shop, or check out Recobike or Bicycode. The operation costs something between €5 and €10 and it gives you a bike passport and number and you can register your bike online.
5. Make sure you have an insurance
You can get an insurance at the bike shop, although your house insurance should cover any theft (usually there are some conditions like the bike being locked up).
Vélo – bike
Cadenas – lock
Antivol – lock
Casque – helmet
Piste cyclable – bike lane