Cyclists in York are suffering a huge increase in bike theft, with the latest figures revealing that the number of reported bikes stolen in the historic city in the 12 months to May was more than double that the previous year and a third above annual estimates made by the police in January. What’s more, only one in 14 of the bicycles stolen is later reunited with its rightful owner, reports the York Press.
The newspaper reports that based on figures it has obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, 2,173 bicycles were stolen in the city in the year to May 2011, around double the number in 2009/10. Since the figures only reflect thefts reported to the police, the true extent of bike crime in the city is likely to be higher.
The worst areas in York for the theft of bicycles are the city centre Guildhall ward, with 386 incidents recorded, followed by Clifton with 200 then Micklegate, where 190 thefts were recorded, and Heworth with 188.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police told the York Press: “We are aware of this increase in the theft of pedal cycles and have a number of ongoing operations to reduce these thefts, which are often opportunistic.
“We encourage people to help themselves becoming the victims of crime by securing their cycles with approved locks and ensuring that they are stored in a locked building when not in use.
“If owners have had their bikes security coded, this means that we are far more likely to be able to return them once recovered.”
The figures obtained by the newspaper also showed that just 70 people had been subject to police action in relation to bike theft during the year, of whom 65 were charged with the other five receiving cautions.
Initiatives taken by police to try and combat bike crime include the Red Hand campaign, under which tracking chips are inserted in bait bikes, allowing them to be tracked if they are taken.
A separate initiative, Operation Spoke, encourages cyclists to have their bikes security tagged and added to the national Immobilise database.
Secure parking is now available at the cycle hub station next to Lendal Bridge, which was opened with the help of money from City of York Council and Cycling City York.
It is operated by the Bike Rescue Project, which advised cyclists to buy a decent lock, with spokesperson Bernie Cullen saying, “If you buy a cheap lock, you may as well tie a bow on a bike.”
One local cyclist, Michael Thompson, recovered his bicycle a month after it had been stolen outside York Station, when he found it abandoned on Micklegate, but police had earlier warned him there was little chance of getting it back.
“When I spoke to police, they said finding my bike would be like finding a needle in a haystack because so many are stolen,” he said.
“I think York is quite old-fashioned when it comes to bikes and bike safety. You pretty much leave your bike chained to a metal pole, but in other cities there are plenty of secure bike parks where you pay to leave your bike in a safe place.”
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.