The Metropolitan Police says cyclists’ use of social media to help track down stolen bikes means bike thieves in London are steering clear of expensive but rare models and are instead targeting mass market ones favoured by commuters, such as the Specialized Allez, because they are easier to sell.
Figures released by the force also show that cycle commuters are the most likely to fall victim to bike theft, since the thieves have the whole working day in which to operate, with thefts most prevalent during business hours and in the boroughs of Hackney, Wandsworth and Westminster, reports the London Evening Standard.
Inspector Dave Dixon from the Metropolitan Police’s Cycle Task Force, said: “There’s an eight-hour window when the bike racks are full. Most of the thefts are in the daytime in boroughs that border the City.
“Bike racks in Westminster are absolutely rammed until 7pm, and that’s why they are targeted. More people are riding into work, and they have to leave their bikes somewhere.”
On the issue of which bikes are most attractive to thieves, he said that police believe they prefer mid-priced ones popular among commuters, since they are easier to sell on.
“If they nick a customised bike it is very hard to sell,” he explained. “It’s like bike porn to cyclists and if they see one they’re all around it, and also cyclists are very active on social media so it’s likely to be spotted.
“A bike like a Specialized Allez – there are hundreds of them and thieves know they can shift them quite easily.”
In the year to March 2013, there were 1,376 reported bike thefts in Hackney, 1,366 in Wandsworth, and 1,341 in Westminster, which had recorded the most such crimes in the preceding year at 1,629.
The total number of bikes reported stolen across the capital stood at 18,894 in 2013/14, a 10 per cent reduction on the previous year, with police attributing the reduction to better security measures being adopted by cyclists.
“We believe it’s due to people getting much better at having bikes marked and locking them up,” said Inspector Dixon.
However, he pointed out that thefts of bicycles were still prevalent in areas with halls of residence or a large number of flats, saying: “If owners are in shared halls or flats, they are less likely to have an indoor space to keep the bikes, so will have to keep them on the street at all times.”
Among boroughs that registered a reduction in bike theft was Hammersmith and Fulham, with 925 reported, a 27 per cent drop on 2012/13, while Brent saw the number of bicycles reported stolen rise by 37 per cent to reach 451. The lowest number of recorded thefts, 117, was in Bexley.
Inspector Dixon added that online second-hand sales sites were useful in trying to recover stolen bikes. “We look on auction sites for stolen bikes,” he said.
“A lot are on Gumtree where sellers only need a phone number. We get suspicious if there is very little detail, a stock photo has been used, if the photo is taken from a long way away, or if there is a story about a sister moving to Australia.”
In this 2011 video from the London Cycling Campaign as part of its Beat the Thief initiative, Barry Mason (who has since sadly passed away) talks through some of the locking methods used on real bikes by real cyclists on some Sheffield stands in London:
road.cc's bike locking Dos and Don'ts
- Do lock your bike to a secure, immovable object - ideally one designed for the purpose
- Do make sure the frame and both wheels are inside your lock, or use two locks, or locking wheel skewers on the front wheel
- Do use a lock, and use it properly even if you are leaving your bike unattended for even a moment
- Do remove lights and anything else that isn't securely fixed to your bike when you are locking it up
- Do lock your bike when you get it home, especially if you keep it in a shed or garage
- Do buy the best lock or locks that you can afford
- Don't leave your bike unlocked and unattended even if you are just nipping in to shop
- Don't lock your bike up in a secluded location where a thief has time to work on your lock undisturbed
- Don't lock your bike to trees or fences that can be easily cut through, or, posts or signs that it can be easily lifted over
- Don't leave space in your shackle - that gives space for evil bike stealing tools to do their worst or leave your lock lying flat on the ground for the same reason
- Don't forget your lock
We're strong believers in always filling your shackle but we're always looking for new ways to help beat bike thieves so if you've got any bike security tips you'd like to share let's hear them!
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.