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Los Angeles is hardly a cycling capital — let alone a safe one. But with less cars on the road, more people felt encouraged to hit the streets on their bikes. Before the pandemic, the city was at 1% of its population biking to work. But by May 2020, the jump was 93%. In the months after the pandemic hit, Los Angeles experienced a bike boom. With most gyms closed and people looking to get exercise close to home, bike shops reportedly quickly sold out their inventory, leading to long waits for those hoping to purchase a two-wheeler. But there was another new, less noticeable trend in the city: bike thefts decreased.
There were 2,011 bicycles reported stolen last year, representing a 16% decrease from the 2,412 that went missing in 2019. The decrease surpasses the approximately 11% overall crime drop in the city last year.
As reported by Crosstown, community engagement manager of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Brenda Yancor expressed surprise at the decline in bike thefts, given the overall increase in cycling. She suspects that the decrease stems from people not leaving their bikes outside and unattended while at work, shopping, or dining at restaurants.
However, this decrease actually began before the pandemic. In Jan. 2020, there were 150 thefts reported, marking a 27% decrease from the same period the previous year. And then the trend never stopped, with every single month in 2020 bringing a lower bike theft total than its counterpart in 2019. In fact, only twice last year was there a month with 200 or more bicycles stolen. There was a steep decline in bike thefts during the last two months of 2020, though there was also a sharp fall at the end of 2019. In December 2020, 140 bikes were reported stolen — a 13% decrease from the same month the previous year.
The most noticeable difference took place in University Park, the neighborhood that includes the University of Southern California, which saw 142 thefts last year. In contrast, there were 408 bikes stolen in the area in 2019. This coincides with tens of thousands of students not being on campus due to the pandemic. Downtown recorded the highest number of thefts of any Los Angeles neighborhood last year, though the 181 bikes taken was down from 296 the year before.
However, some neighborhoods did experience increases. Venice experienced a 6.9% rise, from 117 bikes stolen in 2019 to 125 last year. Palms recorded a 9.2% boost, from 65 to 71. The greatest increase occurred in Hollywood, where the 89 bike thefts represented a 48% increase over the 60 stolen in 2019.
And when it comes to this year, there were 162 reported bike thefts in Los Angeles in the first two months of 2021. This marks a significant decrease from the 288 during the same time last year, as well as the 375 in 2019.