A plain clothes police officer hopped on a bike at Saturday’s Prudential RideLondon Freecycle event to chase down a man he believed had stolen it – and discovered he was already wanted for a previous bike theft.
The officer was one of a team of three from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Cycle Task Force who had been deployed in plain clothes at the event, which saw 60,000 cyclists of all ages ride on a closed road circuit in Central London.
They noticed a grey Trek SU2.0 hybrid bike that had been left by Canada Gate, the entrance to Green Park opposite Buckingham Palace, and believing it had been stolen and perhaps left there by a thief to collect later, kept a watch on it.
Before long, a man turned up wearing a cycle helmet and sunglasses and wheeled the bike away before getting on and riding. When challenged, he dropped the bike and began running across the park towards Piccadilly, trying to get rid of the helmet and sunglasses on his way.
Two of the officers ran after him, while the third jumped on the bike to give chase. The man was arrested near Piccadilly and taken to a police station where officers learnt he was already wanted for bike theft. He has been charged with two counts of theft of a pedal cycle and one of shoplifting.
One of the officers who caught him, Sergeant Neil Redman, said: "This man clearly came to central London with the intention of stealing bikes.
“When he realised he had been cornered by officers he tried to flee but the quick thinking of my colleagues, PC Alex Hannah and PC Darren Goode, meant he was not going to get away."
Chief Superintendent BJ Harrington, Silver Commander for Ride London, said that there had been fewer reported thefts last Saturday compared to the inaugural edition of the event last year.
"The work of the officers and PCSOs on the ground has been tremendous from deterring thefts to providing crime reduction advice,” he said.
"There were three reported thefts in the footprint of our operation on Saturday compared to 17 on the same day last year. In addition to that, we've managed to security mark 675 bikes as well as give out advice to hundreds of cyclists."
As of Sunday evening, police had not yet been able to trace the owner of the bike and asked anyone with information to call the Cycle Task Force via 101.
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.