Are cyclists better off splashing out on decent lock than taking out insurance policy?

Staff at a PR firm have been left scratching their heads after a planned stunt for Britain’s biggest insurance company, intended to highlight the importance of taking out bike insurance, went wrong as bicycles left unlocked at bike crime hotspots in London failed to attract the attention of thieves.

The PR company, working for insurer Aviva, left the bicycles at what had been identified as the five biggest bike theft hotspots in the city, but one bike, left unlocked outside Euston station, was still there two days later.

Another, reported by the Guardian to be a standard bike worth between £200 and £300, was left outside offices in Central London and locked incorrectly in order to tempt thieves, but also failed to attract attention and was retrieved after two days.

It was in the crime-infested streets of Fulham that the experiment scored its biggest successes. One bike, left unlocked outside a house, was taken after five hours, while another, again left without a lock, this time outside a convenience store, disappeared within 20 minutes.

The PR company involved, Red Consultancy, said: "This experiment was not intended to be scientific," adding that it was designed to draw attention to the high prevalence of bike theft, especially in August as summer cyclists take to the streets.

The company added that 540,000 bicycles were stolen in the UK last year, a 22% rise on the preceding 12 months, and highlighted the creation of a dedicated police taskforce in London to combat bike theft.

Of course, to anyone who has had a bike stolen, especially of they've locked it up, it seems incredible  that a bike could be left unlocked outside a high-profile location like Euston Station for 48 hours and not be stolen, but for whatever reason - last-minute getaways to Spain to escape the rain, or fears that it was a police sting - the thieves failed to take the bait.

Indeed, according to the Guardian, one unintended consequence of the study was to highlight that you might be better off investing in a decent lock rather to prevent your bike being stolen in the first place rather than an insurance policy that pays out if it is.

The newspaper said that in a control study carried out ahead of the experiment, which saw bicycles attached to immovable objects with D-locks correctly deployed, none of the bikes was stolen. In the experiment itself, however, the bikes stolen had were either unlocked, or were locked incorrectly.

A spokesman for Aviva said: "Obviously bike insurance will cover you for any theft or damage, but much better not to go through the hassle of dealing with the loss of your transport in the first place. And remember insurers do expect your cycle to be properly secured – and that means locked to a fixed immoveable object – unlike the poor security measures used in our experiment."

As far as the bikes involved in the experiment are concerned, those that weren’t stolen were given to charity, while none of the others have been recovered, nor have any thieves been caught.


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.