London's hire bikes prove their versatility once again, but not in a good way...

We've seen the Boris bike as exercise bike, we've even heard of the Boris bike as TT training machine and now inevitably comes news of Central London's ubiquitous blue hire bikes being put to a darker use… getaway vehicle.

A BBC Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that three instances of Boris bikes being used as getaway bikes by muggers have so far been recorded by the police. Interestingly the criminal fraternity seem to have been slow in cottoning on to the bike's potential nefarious uses – presumably though if they were quicker on the uptake they wouldn't be in the market for committing crime on a hire bike anyway.
The first recorded incident took place on 5 May this year, almost a year after the Barclay's Hire Bike's launch, and involved a 15 year old boy being mugged for his Blackberry mobile phone, and his wallet by a group of six youths all on Barclay's Hire Bikes.

A 16 year old was later charged and convicted for the robbery. The BBC story gives no details on whether the perpetrator's use of the hire bike was instrumental in his being caught – you do after all have to register to use one and if you register in your own name even the hard-pushed forces of law and order in the capital are likely to catch up with you. You could of course register with a stolen credit or debit card, but tellingly the youth charged in the first incident was not charged with fraudulent use of a card.

Two months later a young woman walking along Shaftesbury Avenue had her mobile phone stolen by a thief who made his escape on a hire bike. The following month, August a 13-year old boy had his phone stolen by a group of 15 year olds on Boris bikes.

Three incidents hardly adds up to a two-wheeled crime wave, in fact it's probably more a warning to teenagers and young people to keep their mobile phones hidden and to avoid gangs of youths on bikes… even if they are those nice friendly looking Boris bikes. This does all beg a few questions though, one of which is is this Freedom of information request a good use of the licence fee and taxpayer's money; and the second in a less Daily Mailish vein is what are the pros and cons of the Boris bike as getaway vehicle? If you don't mind we'll stick to looking at the pros and cons question:

Con: it's slow
Pro: but not as slow as London traffic
Con: you need to register using a valid debit or credit card and provide your name and address
Pro: you're having a laugh on that one mate
Con: They are very distinctive…
Pro: … but not unique. There are thousands of them on London's streets so the police are likely to need something stronger to go on than simply 'it was a blue hire bike'
Pro: there's a handy rack on the front to stash  your loot

Looking at the list we can't help feeling the pros outweigh the cons here for the Boris bike taken to the dark side particularly for those theives who might find some irony in stealing while riding a bike sponsored by a bank.

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.