Registering your bike could help you get it back if it’s stolen—or if tourists are riding it around Central Park

The allegation that stolen bikes are being rented to tourists may or may be true, but you can still protect your ride by registering at your local precinct

Central Park in New York, spring 2013

Central Park in New York, spring 2013 Photograph: Fiora Watts

When mourning a stolen bike, it’s hard to keep from imagining who might be riding it and scouring Craigslist for its resale ad. The image that doesn’t usually come to mind, however, is of a clueless tourist happily cycling through Central Park on wheels that rightfully belong to you.

The New York Post reported this morning that a group of bicycle thieves have allegedly been renting stolen bikes to tourists near Columbus Circle. But according to the NYPD, no complaints about this phenomenon have been received, and the man quoted in the story—who supposedly found his stolen bike being illegally rented out—never filed a police report.

Whether or not there are illicit stolen two-wheelers for rent in Central Park, there are ways for riders to protect their bikes. The NYPD offers a registration program in each precinct—cyclists can get their frame engraved with a custom ID number, which can be used to trace the bike back to its rightful owner if it is recovered. Decals advising thieves and unsuspecting buyers (or tourists) that the bike is registered with the police are also available. You can call your local precinct for details.

Although registering doesn’t guarantee that the new Tokyobike you just shelled out for won’t get stolen, it might give you enough peace of mind to take advantage of the city’s biking options this summer. It might also deter thieves from renting your ride to tourists…if that ever actually happens.