Sunday, November 26, 2006

VIN numbers for bicycles

In Oklahoma, it's illegal to sell a bicycle without a serial number or with a serial number that's been altered. Collectors may welcome a standardized VIN - sometime in the future, at least - because it may help separate real products from counterfeits. As for the possibilities of licensing or registering bicycles via the VIN, I won't get too excited. It's entirely possible to trace bicycles now, provided the original owner recorded the number. If the bike is stolen and the serial number goes into the NCIC database, it can be traced to the owner in a few minutes.

But the easiest way to make a bike traceable is to engrave your driver's license number (assuming you have one, of course) somewhere on the frame. That number is traceable within seconds. Just follow the format: OK DL 10000XXXX, but use you own state!

Social Security numbers are traceable too, but only during business hours Monday through Friday.

New Standard Vehicle Identity Numbers for Bicycles

The Full Story:

Denver, Colorado: ASTM Subcommittee F08.10 on Bicycles has developed standard vehicle identity numbers (VIN) for bicycles. Manufacturers who identify bicycles according to new ASTM F 2268, Standard Specification for Bicycle Serial Numbers, will provide consumers with bicycles that will be easier to track if stolen. ASTM will release the standard in July.

An ASTM task group of manufacturers, engineers, lawyers, and municipal planners developed Standard F 2268. Task group chairman Patrick Logan, P.E., Product Development manager, Burley Design, Eugene, Ore., says the task group collaborated on a universally acceptable VIN system. "The size of the number, method of application, and the location on the bike frame were the biggest hurdles," says Logan. "The result is that we now have a fixed number format and a location which provides some degree of flexibility to manufacturers. At some point we expect the standard will be adopted into law."

James Mackay, P.E., Bicycle planner, City of Denver, Colo., says reported bike loss from theft annually exceeds $1 million in Denver. Police return a mere seven percent of stolen bicycles to owners because manufacturers' numbering systems aren't easily tracked to the point of sale, he says, adding "Many recovered bikes are sold at city auction as a result of the police having no idea who the owners are." Mackay initiated the development of the VIN, calling for "a standardized location to provide a flat, tamper-resistant bicycle identification number unique to that bicycle allowing for enhanced registration, identification, and recovery of stolen bicycles."

In addition, Mackay notes, "the serial number may help to determine the identity of bicyclists injured or killed while riding their bikes."

As well as aiding in theft recovery and establishing uniform identify marking, the ASTM standard can prevent time-consuming mistakes in bicycle theft reporting. "Some manufacturers put both a model number and a serial number on their bikes," Mackay says. "This can result in the model number being used in a theft report—all other bikes from that production run can be determined as 'stolen.' "

Logan describes long-term benefits of applying the ASTM standard. "Will there be a license plate for bikes in the future, now that they have a unique VIN like cars?," he offers. "That may be possible with this standard. Large cities like Denver, and even small ones like Eugene, Ore., have evolved bike paths as a means to improve human mobility and enhancement of economic growth. Theft and maintenance of these vehicles are threats to the freedom people expect in moving about their communities. The more means and ease people have to move about their cities results in more commerce—it is that simple. Bikes fill a mobility gap between the automobile and the pedestrian.

"The serial number provides a means for law enforcement to return bikes to owners, lost or stolen, and a means for consumers to locate information from Web- based sources," he continues. "An owner could ideally locate the safety maintenance information and product recall for their particular bike on the Web, as well as locate accessories that will fit that product. The serial number is a benefit to all parties— government, industry, and consumers."

ASTM standards are available from Customer Service (phone: 610/832-9585; or

For further technical information, contact Patrick Logan, Burley Design, Eugene, Ore. (phone: 541/687-1644; The subcommittee is part of Committee F08 on Sports Equipment and Facilities, which meets in Tampa, Fla., Nov. 19-22. For membership or meeting details, contact Jim Olshefsky, director, Committee Services, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9714;

Publish Date: 11/21/2006


Blogger Paul Tay said...

Sounds reasonable to me. Nobody expect motorists to engrave their DL on their cars. So, why should we expect bicyclists to do that?

7:06 AM  
Blogger WheelDancer said...

The VIN is a great idea, I hope it sticks. The SSN is not such a good idea in this age of identity theft. Ain't it a shame we even have to think like this?

8:40 PM  

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