For those familiar with what is the smallest of the Channel Islands, the phrase “Sark crime-wave” must sound like an oxymoron.
With just 600 residents, no cars or metalled roads and a blanket 10mph speed limit, there is little to disturb a relaxed, convivial way of life on a speck of land just three-and-a-half miles long by one-and-a-half wide.
And while crime-wave might be a little strong to describe a recent spate of bicycle-related thefts, there is no doubt that on an island where cycling is a primary mode of transport and where everyone tends to know everyone else, such thefts have had more of an impact than they might elsewhere.
“Bikes have always been taken but mostly they turn up somewhere else,” Bob Parsons, editor of the Sark Scribe newspaper told road.cc.
He continued: “It’s a peaceful way of life here with no street lighting whatsoever, so sometimes if you come out of a bar in total darkness and grab a bike where you think you left yours, it‘s always possible in daylight to find you’ve got the wrong one!”
“But recently some bikes have disappeared and have turned up with saddles and other bits missing from them which is very much against the ways of Sark. So it could be someone who is not completely au fait with the ways of life here,” said Bob.
The island has an unpaid constable who is investigating the thefts. He works on a voluntary basis but his services, it seems, are not often called upon.
“The constable told me that over the last week five bikes have gone missing but said that sometimes people don’t report the thefts or if they do, they forget to report that their bike has been found again,” added Bob.
Sark gets around 40,000 visitors a year so there is a possibility that it is not an inside job. One more serious aspect of the spate of thefts, however, was the taking of an electric mobility scooter which was subsequently trashed. Such machines are only allowed on the island on a doctor's say-so.
Sark has a feudal lord or “seigneur” who was previously the head of what was considered the last feudal government in Europe. Democratic elections were held in 2008 when associated constitutional reforms also took place.
Despite the recent bike-related mischief, Bob encourages cyclists to visit the island and says it is possible either to bring your own bike or hire one once you arrive.