More cyclists in Denver -- and record numbers of bicycle thefts

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Editor's note: This is the second in a series of reports about biking and bike safety in Denver and beyond.

If you're a cycling fan, the good news is that a lot more folks are biking in Denver and the city is spending significantly more money to build paths for these commuters. The bad news, however, is that more bikes are getting stolen. A lot more.

According to theft reports filled with the Denver Police Department over the last four years, there's been a steady increase in stolen bicycles.

In 2011, there were 1,411 total reported bike thefts. In 2010, there were 1,376. In 2009, the total number of thefts was 1,144 -- 232 fewer than 2010.

And the latest records for this year are making 2012 look grim.

From the first day of 2012 to May 23 -- the latest date on record when we contacted DPD last week -- 421 bikes were reported stolen. But during that same time period last year, only 272 bikes were reported stolen. And if the past three years are any indication, many more bikes are stolen after May 23 than in the months preceding, which means that 2012 could be a record-breaker.

According to Piep van Heuven, executive director of BikeDenver, bike theft is a particular problem downtown. "We want to get the word out," she says. "Never use a cable lock.... Don't leave it overnight at a park, park the bike next to something pretty." Cable locks are the easiest to clip.

The Downtown Denver Partnership advises cyclists to lock bikes to bike racks rather than trees, street lights or other sidewalks furnishings. There are 600 racks scattered throughout downtown Denver.

The DPD recommends that you keep your bike inside when possible, and always lock it up if when it's parked outside -- or even in a garage.

Emily Snyder, a senior city planner with Denver's Department of Public Works who oversees bicycle and pedestrian matters, recommends that cyclists get their bicycles registered with the city, which can help in cases of theft.

Theft is one of many challenges that cities face as cycling booms. "There are growing pains," acknowledges van Heuven.

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Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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