Brighton: Bicycles seized by police ahead of Lib Dem conference speeches

Security risk to people queueing to see Nick Clegg speak

by Sarah Barth   September 23, 2012  

brighton pier.jpg

We're all familiar with the idea that if you leave your bike locked up to an on-street bike rack, it might not be there when you get back.

That's the case for 14 cyclists in Brighton, but luckily for them, their bikes will be safe and sound (minus their locks) at the local nick.

Police are taking no chances with security at the Liberal Democrat party conference this weekend, where Nick Clegg will address the party faithful at the Brighton Centre, just next door to his accomodation at the Grand Hotel, scene of the 1984 IRA bombing, that was an attempt to kill Margaret Thatcher. Five people were killed and a number were injured.

Cyclists were warned to remove their bikes with signs attached to racks a few days ago, but yesterday an operation began to remove any stragglers with an array of power tools.

The racks, outside the Odeon cinema on the seafront, line the pavements that are expected to be 'queue points' for delegates attending today's speech.

It seems the most likely fear is of bicycle bombs, or improvised explosive devices placed in or on bicycles.

They have been used before, but not always effectively.

The IRA has been known to plant devices in the baskets of bicycles and have caused a number of deaths in this way. They've also been used by terrorists in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Once of the most sophisticated bicycle bombs was used to kill the director of Deutsche Bank, Alfred Herrhausen, in 1989.

According to Wikipedia:

Herrhausen fell victim to a sophisticated roadside bomb shortly after leaving his home in Bad Homburg on 30 November 1989. He was being chauffeured to work in his armoured Mercedes-Benz, with bodyguards in both a lead vehicle and another following behind. The bomb had been hidden in a saddle bag on a bicycle next to the road that the assassins knew Herrhausen would be traveling in his three-car convoy. In the bag was a 7 kg bomb that was detonated when Herrhausen's car interrupted a beam of infrared light as it passed the bicycle. The bomb targeted the most vulnerable area of Herrhausen's car—-the door where he was sitting—-and required split-second timing to overcome the car's special armour plating.

It sounds as though Brighton locals are unhappy about the cycle parking restrictions that they are having to observe; Sussex police have had to ask members of the public to stop removing the signs attached to bike racks.

Superintendent Steve Whitton said: "Officers have now removed approximately 14 bicycles as part of the security operation around the Grand Hotel and the Brighton Centre.

"The bikes have all been taken to John Street Police Station and owners are advised to come to the front office of the station to reclaim them. New signs will be put up to replace the ones that have been removed."

22 user comments

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I am sure there is a grave threat to LibDems, but I think the police are looking in the wrong place if they assume it will be bombs in Brighton.

No, all over the country there are millions of disillusioned LibDem voters from the last election, with an evil glint in their eyes

posted by Paul M [315 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 9:52

3 Likes

In all fairness there have been many killers throughout history who have specifically targetted prostitutes - so I'd say the Lib Dems have real cause for fear & alarm

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [555 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 9:59

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The real threat comes from their own Party members who will no longer vote for them after being spooned by the great beast that is the Tory Party.

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [204 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 13:26

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So, if the police move bikes because the bike may have a bomb concealed in it, they will be storing the bikes in the police station? I don't like to insult the plods about their stupidity, but this makes one wonder.
The bomb in the article was in a bag on the bike. Are naked bikes left alone? There has never been a bomb inside a bike. For one, it would not work. Read John Adams' blog on the subject.
After extensive enquiry he has found no bike frame bombs.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [249 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 16:21

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To clarify my earlier comment, I do not think that the police are that stupid. I think they don't take the threat of a bicycle bomb seriously, at least once they have taken a look in any bag or pannier.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [249 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 16:24

4 Likes

The revolution will not be motorised Big Grin (with apologies to the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-Op)

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [111 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 16:52

1 Like

felixcat wrote:
To clarify my earlier comment, I do not think that the police are that stupid. I think they don't take the threat of a bicycle bomb seriously, at least once they have taken a look in any bag or pannier.

[[[[ Hmm...would you, as a cop, want to open a saddle-bag or pannier-bag, to look for a bomb? And I suppose yer bike would be safer in the nick than on a rack in the street. But any compensation for one's busted lock(s)?
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [293 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 18:26

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Maybe someone on the internet said their new bike,"goes like a rocket"?

posted by SideBurn [832 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 18:27

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Its been used before as mentioned, the 1989 on in Germany was a frame bomb I think

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_bomb

Now I'm not one for the Daily Fail. But I saw the article there with pictures. If you didn't read those signs and your bike was taken away. Its your own fault Devil

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2207130/iberal-Democrat-conferen...

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8934 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 19:25

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Gkam, all Wikipaedia says is

" In 1989, Alfred Herrhausen, chairman of Deutsche Bank, was killed by a sophisticated bomb hidden in a parked bicycle."

This does not seem very strong evidence of a frame bomb to me. If I have missed the reference you meant, please say so.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [249 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 19:36

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Gkam84 wrote:
But I saw the article there with pictures. If you didn't read those signs and your bike was taken away. Its your own fault Devil

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2207130/iberal-Democrat-conference-On-bike-Police-remove-cycles-queue-points-Brighton.html

People have been caught. I don't suppose the Wail pictures covered the whole area.
The policy does not encourage people to use their bikes to get around.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [249 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 19:47

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PhilRuss wrote:

[[[[ Hmm...would you, as a cop, want to open a saddle-bag or pannier-bag, to look for a bomb? And I suppose yer bike would be safer in the nick than on a rack in the street. But any compensation for one's busted lock(s)?
P.R.

I certainly would not like to search a bike to find a bomb. I would not like to even move it! The point though, is that even bare bikes are moved. If I wanted to make a bike bomb I might think of wiring the lock so that the bike could not be moved without triggering the bomb. Perhaps with a delay on it to give the Police time to get it into the station.
There are much easier ways of delivering a bomb than a bike.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [249 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 19:48

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A bicycle bomb was planted in Brighton in the early 1990s by the IRA.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2233 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 21:28

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OldRidgeback wrote:
A bicycle bomb was planted in Brighton in the early 1990s by the IRA.

Do you have a reference for that? I'm sorry, but this is the nearest I can find.

"And here from the Independent (Tuesday, 16 August 1994) is a description of your Brighton and Bognor bombs: “A device containing about 5lb of explosive was left in Brighton and one with about half that amount in Bognor Regis, police said yesterday. Both were hidden in panniers on the back of blue mountain bicycles.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ira-confirms-it-planted-seaside-bic...)"

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [249 posts]
23rd September 2012 - 22:02

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So the bike not reclaimed from the police station is the one with a bomb inside. LibDems are doing a good enough job exploding their own party, don't need any help.

So from the reports posted above the bombs which have been placed were inside bags attached to bikes.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

ragtag's picture

posted by ragtag [161 posts]
24th September 2012 - 8:50

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felixcat wrote:
OldRidgeback wrote:
A bicycle bomb was planted in Brighton in the early 1990s by the IRA.

Do you have a reference for that? I'm sorry, but this is the nearest I can find.

"And here from the Independent (Tuesday, 16 August 1994) is a description of your Brighton and Bognor bombs: “A device containing about 5lb of explosive was left in Brighton and one with about half that amount in Bognor Regis, police said yesterday. Both were hidden in panniers on the back of blue mountain bicycles.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ira-confirms-it-planted-seaside-bic...)"

Yep, that's the one I remember. It was planted not long before the IRA ceasefire.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2233 posts]
24th September 2012 - 10:40

2 Likes

OldRidgeback wrote:
felixcat wrote:
OldRidgeback wrote:
A bicycle bomb was planted in Brighton in the early 1990s by the IRA.

Do you have a reference for that? I'm sorry, but this is the nearest I can find.

"And here from the Independent (Tuesday, 16 August 1994) is a description of your Brighton and Bognor bombs: “A device containing about 5lb of explosive was left in Brighton and one with about half that amount in Bognor Regis, police said yesterday. Both were hidden in panniers on the back of blue mountain bicycles.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ira-confirms-it-planted-seaside-bic...)"

Yep, that's the one I remember. It was planted not long before the IRA ceasefire.

Again, not a frame tube bomb. It does seem to me overzealous to move bare bikes when frame bombs are so rare that I cannot find any such. John Adams had an appeal for informatiion about frame bombs put on the website of the Coldstream Guards without result.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [249 posts]
24th September 2012 - 11:00

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Allegedly Cancellara had a motor inside his super slim road bike ?

If you can put a motor in a frame why not a bomb. Dont forget with modern day explosives you dont need a large amount to cause massive damage / injury.

Pipe bombs are a well known device in the middle east so whats to say it cant be adapted to a bike frame.

In the end the Police acted by the guidelines sent down from the Home Office for political conferences.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2809 posts]
24th September 2012 - 11:11

3 Likes

Thatcher targeted in bomb alert ..

Aaahh, the good old days ...

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [301 posts]
25th September 2012 - 9:20

2 Likes

Slurry type explosives are widely used in mining and quarrying and could easily be inserted into a bicycle frame or any other type of tubing for that matter. The IRA used commercially available materials to make explosives (I won't say what for obvious reasons though a lot of the wrong people know anyway) and these types would also be sufficiently liquid.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2233 posts]
25th September 2012 - 10:58

3 Likes

The problem with modern terrorism is that the terrorist has a nasty habit of blowing themselves up. The security forces can clear the area of bikes/vehicles/suspicious packages but unless they create a 'sterile' zone and bus delegates in, there is nothing stopping an individual walking up and pressing a button. I would have thought a sweep with sniffer dogs would have been a better option and less frustrating one for the locals.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1059 posts]
25th September 2012 - 11:22

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Pipe bombs are not straightforward to make. The ends need to be very well closed if the saddle is not to become a rocket. Wikipaedia has some interesting stuff.
Of course, with knowledge and ingenuity a bike could be made into a bomb, but why bother, when so many easier ways of delivering more explosive are available. A suicide pedestrian, or a suicide driver need less technology.
If the police really suspected that a bare bike was a bomb, or a bike with a pannier for that matter, they would not be taking it into the cop shop.
As I suggested above, the clever bomb maker could put a motion sensor on a bike bomb. He could connect the lock into the trigger circuit. He could do either of those with a suitable delay to take out the police station.
I really cannot believe the police are so stupid as to deal with suspect bombs in this way.
If Home Office guidelines dictate such dangerous police procedure then the guidelines are wrong.

felixcat's picture

posted by felixcat [249 posts]
25th September 2012 - 12:57

3 Likes