The Metropolitan Police says cyclists’ use of social media to help track down stolen bikes means bike thieves in London are steering clear of expensive but rare models and are instead targeting mass market ones favoured by commuters, such as the Specialized Allez, because they are easier to sell.
Figures released by the force also show that cycle commuters are the most likely to fall victim to bike theft, since the thieves have the whole working day in which to operate, with thefts most prevalent during business hours and in the boroughs of Hackney, Wandsworth and Westminster, reports the London Evening Standard.
Inspector Dave Dixon from the Metropolitan Police’s Cycle Task Force, said: “There’s an eight-hour window when the bike racks are full. Most of the thefts are in the daytime in boroughs that border the City.
“Bike racks in Westminster are absolutely rammed until 7pm, and that’s why they are targeted. More people are riding into work, and they have to leave their bikes somewhere.”
On the issue of which bikes are most attractive to thieves, he said that police believe they prefer mid-priced ones popular among commuters, since they are easier to sell on.
“If they nick a customised bike it is very hard to sell,” he explained. “It’s like bike porn to cyclists and if they see one they’re all around it, and also cyclists are very active on social media so it’s likely to be spotted.
“A bike like a Specialized Allez – there are hundreds of them and thieves know they can shift them quite easily.”
In the year to March 2013, there were 1,376 reported bike thefts in Hackney, 1,366 in Wandsworth, and 1,341 in Westminster, which had recorded the most such crimes in the preceding year at 1,629.
The total number of bikes reported stolen across the capital stood at 18,894 in 2013/14, a 10 per cent reduction on the previous year, with police attributing the reduction to better security measures being adopted by cyclists.
“We believe it’s due to people getting much better at having bikes marked and locking them up,” said Inspector Dixon.
However, he pointed out that thefts of bicycles were still prevalent in areas with halls of residence or a large number of flats, saying: “If owners are in shared halls or flats, they are less likely to have an indoor space to keep the bikes, so will have to keep them on the street at all times.”
Among boroughs that registered a reduction in bike theft was Hammersmith and Fulham, with 925 reported, a 27 per cent drop on 2012/13, while Brent saw the number of bicycles reported stolen rise by 37 per cent to reach 451. The lowest number of recorded thefts, 117, was in Bexley.
Inspector Dixon added that online second-hand sales sites were useful in trying to recover stolen bikes. “We look on auction sites for stolen bikes,” he said.
“A lot are on Gumtree where sellers only need a phone number. We get suspicious if there is very little detail, a stock photo has been used, if the photo is taken from a long way away, or if there is a story about a sister moving to Australia.”
In this 2011 video from the London Cycling Campaign as part of its Beat the Thief initiative, Barry Mason (who has since sadly passed away) talks through some of the locking methods used on real bikes by real cyclists on some Sheffield stands in London:
We're strong believers in always filling your shackle but we're always looking for new ways to help beat bike thieves so if you've got any bike security tips you'd like to share let's hear them!
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.