New technology reunites bikes and owners

| October 31, 2012

By Kathryn Stewart, Naomi Ng and Dovile Seduikyte

Aarhus is set to become the first city in Denmark to harness a new technology to return lost bikes back to their owners.

The city has ordered 150, 000 QR code labels to distribute to citizens free of charge. These labels function like bar codes, able to transmit contact information about the bike owner once they have been stuck to the frame.

“Each year we throw around 1, 000 bicycles away. We’ve removed them from the inner city and we don’t know who the owner is. So that’s the big problem I think,” says Pablo Celis, project manager for Aarhus Cycling City.

The labels can be scanned with smartphones, meaning that municipal staff and passersby alike can scan the code of a bike that seems abandoned, sending an email or a GPS position to the owner of the bike.

Local solution

The technology was designed by an Aarhus-based company, Taglock, which started printing these labels less than a year ago. Filling the order for the city of Aarhus was their biggest contract to date.

Lars Thomsen, co-founder of Taglock, says the invention was inspired by the high rates of bike theft in Aarhus, and across the country.

“In Denmark every 8 minutes, somebody is missing a bike. It means we have approximately 300 million kroner in lost bikes every year. Bikes who cannot come home, and they’re just standing around,” says Thomsen.

“So this a simple way we can help each other.”

City takes a hopeful step

The order by the city is part of a larger project to create a more cycling-friendly city, including projects to build more secure bike racks and to distribute bike alarms to prevent theft. The city will mail the QR labels to approximately 50, 000 households in October as a pilot project.

“This is the first big roll-out now, so I would like to see how many register of the 50, 000 and then I would like to see how many of the Taglocks are reported missing, how many of these bicycles are found. If it is a success then we’ll go further to bigger distribution,” says Celis.

Bike theft victim Mia Lundquist Jensen hadn’t heard about the new QR code program, but thinks it might have helped when her bike was stolen outside a school.

“Especially now when everyone is using smartphones, it is very convenient. It sounds like a very innovative project,” says the Aarhus University student.

Taglocks still on trial

The bike rental program at Studenterhus Aarhus uses some QR code labels to help track their bikes–however, manager Anne Nielsen isn’t convinced the technology can stop bike theft for good.

“I don’t think people will stop stealing bikes, but it’ll just help drive them from one place to another,” she says.

However, people in high places are already signing onto the idea

“Last week we received an email, that at the mayor’s house, the mayor had received a taglock and had put it on his bike. So we are in progress.” says Thomsen.

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Category: Danish Cycling Know How

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