Thieves hit Orioles Bike Cage, dent confidence in cycling safety

THIEVES have put a wrench into a community bike hub in the West End.

The Orioles Bike Cage has been forced to close its repair shop after dozens of bikes and tools were stolen on the weekend.

“We suspect that it happened either very late Friday night or in the wee hours of Saturday morning,” said director Gregory Allan. “My heart sank a little bit. It’s not the first time we’ve been broken into.”

The operation has run out of the Valour Community Centre by a team of volunteers that refurbishes donated bikes, and teaches people how to fix their own rides.

Despite amping up security measures over the years, Allan said thefts happen at least once every two years. He said there have been six break-ins since the shop opened 13 years ago.

“Every time it happens, it’s very frustrating and very disheartening,” Allan said. “It means a lot of work to re-establish everything that’s been taken, and it means a disruption to our service. People are going to come to our shop, realize we’re closed and not be able to fix their bikes.”

After the last break-in, around Halloween 2020, a heavy-duty steel door was installed to amp up Orioles’ security — but it wasn’t enough. On the weekend, thieves made off with $3,000 in tools.

Allan is convinced bike theft is getting worse. In 2020, 2,100 bikes were reported stolen to the Winnipeg Police Service.

Some programs, such as Bike Winnipeg’s valet program, try to ward off theft by offering monitored bike parking at special events. When a community bike hub is targeted, many riders are affected.

Orioles Bike Cage will have to spend money that could’ve paid for outreach and community initiatives on enhancing security and replacing stolen equipment.

Allan believes theft has a wider impact on

cycling advocacy in the city; dedicating a small amount of public money to installing security infrastructure for community bike hubs could be a solution, he said.

“There are a lot of groups trying to get more people on bikes more often in an attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions,” Allan said. “The more bikes get stolen, the more places like this to get broken into, the harder it is for people to make that switch and to trust that cycling is, in fact, a good decision to make.”

Allan said the Orioles Bike Cage will remain closed for weeks.