It’s no surprise that bike thieves have learned that one of the most effective ways to turn stolen property into cash is through online marketplaces.
The stories of cyclists finding their stolen bikes on Craigslist and eBay can be found in news sites and blogs all over the Internet. Wanting to make a difference, our whole team set out to rally fellow cyclists to urge that Craigslist and eBay require serial numbers for bike listings knowing that this one small change could make a healthy difference.
There had been similar petitions in the past, all notable efforts raising the issue, but none that gathered enough support to make the change we all wanted to see. After some research, and some back of the envelope math, we gave ourselves a goal of finding 20,000 like-minded cyclists to join us. 20,000 seemed like a big number, a number that we hoped would garner the attention of Craigslist and eBay.
We launched the petition at the Sea Otter Classic at the same time we launched the beta version of our iOS registration app, the 529 Garage, in April. After cleaning the clipboard inventory out from several local office supply stores, we armed ourselves with a ream of petitions and the support of the great people at Sea Otter, SRAM and Specialized and set out to see if people shared our frustration…we were overwhelmed at the outpouring of support. Over the course of four days at Sea Otter (combined with late nights of handwriting deciphering and trips to Kinkos), we gathered signatures and heard tales of woe from over 2,000 frustrated cyclists, many of whom had a story to share about bike theft and their frustration with Craigslist and eBay. Not only did we get many of the participants to sign up, we also got the attention of some great industry partners who agreed with us and pledged to lend a hand.
Shortly after Sea Otter, PeopleforBikes joined us and sent out a letter supporting the petition to a group of their more active members. SRAM followed suit, promoting us through their various social media channels and letting us take over their homepage for nearly a week with this banner during the Tour de France.
Back home in the Pacific Northwest, we were greeted with enthusiasm from the incredible local cycling community. We started working with several bike shops in Portland and Seattle and sent our Bike Theft Viking armed with petition clipboards to many local shops including West End Bikes, the Lumberyard, CyclePath, Bike n Hike, Revolver, Sunset Cycles, VeloCult, Gregg’s Cycles, Second Ascent, Hi-5 and many others who wanted to help. The shops asked their customers to join the effort with each bringing back hundreds of signatures from local cyclists.
There were also several companies and groups who believe in what we’re doing and wanted to lend a hand such as The Clymb who graciously sponsored a Bike Theft Sucks flash sale on 5/29 along our with our pals at HipLok who make some great urban locks that we like to use around town ourselves.
In June, Jesse over at Apex hosted us with free beer for our “Registered Bike Defender” team & helped us reach many of his cycling customers (and find many our first Android beta testers).
Throughout the summer and fall, we raised our tent and gathered signatures at 15 different cycling events like Rebecca’s Private Idaho, Leadville 100, Bridge Pedal, Mountain Bike Oregon, STP (along with Centralia College), the Evergreen Mountain Bike Festival, IMBA’s Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day and others, connecting with commuters, racers, fitness enthusiasts and the dirt crowd. Thanks to the sponsorship of SRAM and Thule, these events drove not just signatures but also helped get 1,000’s of bikes registered.
The more time we spent at events, the more we connected with great organizations that jumped on the bandwagon to help via social media, newsletters and general word of mouth. IMBA, RidewithGPS, OR Bike, Bike Thieves Beware, Puget Sound Creative, Garmin, Bern Unlimited, EMBA, Northwest Trail Alliance, BTA, Dave Towle and many other incredible cycling individuals, companies and organizations helped us along the way, urging their customers and followers to join the cause. We also made a few fun detours in the process like sneaking backstage at the KISS show and getting the members of the band to sign.
Of course, the media picked up on the story and also helped spread the word with mentions from big to small helping us reach new communities. Outside Magazine, Bicycling, KATU, PezCycling News, PinkBike, the Wall Street Journal, Gizmodo, Oakland North, Bicycling Monterey and others activated their readers to join the cause.
As we were discussing our participation in the San Francisco Bike Theft Summit that Jenny Oh Hatfield (www.plattyjo.com) was organizing in July, we realized we had an incredible opportunity to reach a much broader audience by joining forces. While we had recently crested 20,000 names from all 50 states (unsurprisingly, California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado were on top), we knew our efforts to date had been very focused on the West Coast and on the “core cyclists.” We decided that by making the petition less 529-branded, and more community based, we hoped we could potentially double our original goal.
We contacted the incredible folks at Care2, outlined what we were looking to accomplish and they were completely on-board, so we decided to let the petition out of the 529 “nest”. With the support of the other SF Bike Theft Summit participants including SF Safe, Bike Index, Bike East Bay and the SFPD and the Care2 audience, the petition quickly picked up steam, somedays adding north of 2,000 signatures. It was incredible to watch the broader community rally and add another 25,000 signatures in a few months.
Even with all the help from these amazing events and organizations, we couldn’t have gotten to this point without the thousands of cyclists who shared, posted, linked, liked and encouraged their friends to lend a hand. In the end we accumulated 51,203 signatures from all 50 states and 133 countries. Throughout this journey we picked up quite a few supporters that we want to thank individually…Chad White, Mitch Trux, Uma Kleppinger, Stacey Clapp, Jorge Jiminez, Laura Flath, Eric Nace, Steve Willet, Ayleen Crotty, Lacy Kemp, Brenda Reed, Chris Brannen, Christian Hagel (and the entire 529 Legion), the Carroll family (particularly button-maker extraordinaire Ali), Cam Ferroni and Sam Brown-Shaklee…you all are incredible members of the 529 team. While a lot of the countries only had a handful of supporters, about 15 of them had 100 or more. The US is by no means alone in the impact this epidemic has on our communities.
So, that’s the story of how a small group of passionate cyclists in Portland, Oregon got over 50,000 signatures on our first petition ever…with a little help from a lot of new friends.
Want to keep up-to-date on our progress with eBay and Craigslist? Be sure to add your name to our newsletter but more importantly, register your bike with the 529 Garage and join our crowd-connected community of bike enthusiasts looking out for one another.
Oh yeah, and if you’re interested in doing a petition yourself, consider in advance your data entry strategy. While over two-thirds of our supporters signed online, there was a lot of quality time with Excel across the team to turn chicken-scratch into readable ASCII!