Is bike registration in the UK about to change forever

Working with major property and dedicated bike registers in the UK, the police will soon be introducing a ‘search engine’ to query all connected registers in a single search.

The technical details and a formal release date are yet to be announced but Stolen Ride believes that the search engine could change UK bike registration forever.

At present the police have to log in to numerous databases to perform a search when a bike is recovered, which is highly inefficient and open to error.

This new portal and search engine should level the playing field between all companies registering bikes (and there are many). We anticipate it could rule out the ability for the police to endorse one single register, as all connected registers will be technically approved by the police.

The founder of Veloeye, who is part of the project, shared his views with Stolen Ride:

“Bike theft always comes down to the same thing. They are easy to steal, difficult to trace back to an owner and easy to sell on through online marketplaces. Lots of people we speak to can’t remember what make and model of bike they have, let alone have a copy of their frame number.

“I think it is a good thing for all of the registration companies, it makes it so much more efficient for the police.”

New investment and innovation

As an added benefit to the new portal, we believe that we should start to see new innovation as companies will now have to provide new and unique selling points. This might be new online technology, enhanced point of sale registration or new ways of marking bikes. After all, there is financial value for these for-profit companies to capture new user details.

At Stolen Ride we’re aware of new companies with high investment entering the market and even some larger retailers are creating their own registration systems. Talking to The Times, Halfords recently mentioned the following:

“We are developing a high-tech solution to make it much easier to track all the bikes we sell and to prove ownership. We will reveal more details as soon as we are able, but our intention is to go live this year.”

The end of 2021 has been floated as the target for the release of the new police portal, but it would not be surprising if that target drifts. It’s likely a complex piece of work with technical and project management challenges.

Unanswered questions

There are many questions we’re sure the public would like to understand, including:

  1. Will there be a level of public access, or cycling industry access, to check second-hand bikes? For example, a bike checker service that searches ‘all registers’ and tells you if a bike is stolen.
  2. Will the company I registered my bike with be included?
  3. Will the police continue to register via bike registration events using 3rd party kits? Or will they develop their own database which will be connected to the portal?
  4. What data will the ‘search engine’ be able to access? For example, will the result just flag that the bike is registered (and stolen) and then the police will have to request further information?
  5. Will users of the existing registration companies have to ‘opt in’ before their bikes (and potentially details) appear?
  6. What happens if there is a bug/failure on one of the registers it searches? Will the police make sure they search again? Will the police change their procedures?
  7. Can any new bike registration company (or database) join the scheme and open their API? Is there a range of technical requirements and a formal approval process?

Stolen Ride will aim to follow up on this blog post when there is further insight gathered from the police.