Organised crime gangs in Hull have led to a concerning surge in bike thefts, with 44 bikes stolen in the city centre in just the last month, and more in outlying areas.
Police say that in the year to date there have been almost 900 bike thefts in the city, which has one of the highest rates of cycling in the country. In just eight months the total is nearly as much as the whole of last year, when 1,073 bikes were stolen.
One theory behind the thefts, which are increasingly involving high end machines, is the increasing popularity of cycling in the wake of the London 2012 Olympics and Tour de France in Yorkshire, fuelling demand for smart stolen road bikes.
Sergeant Russell Whittle, tasked with leading a crackdown on the offending, told the Hull Daily Mail: "It is concerning. More people are entering the sport.
"There are a lot more expensive cycles out there. We are seeing bikes worth £2,000-plus being stolen.
"Criminals are not daft. They can break into a house and walk away with perhaps fifty quid, but if they are caught they are looking at a custodial sentence.
"If they go out and steal a bike, the gain is going to be much more but they know the punishment is likely to be less severe. Realistically, they know they are unlikely to be given a custodial sentence."
"It's clear from the latest figures that it is becoming more of a problem," said Sgt Whittle.
"If you look at the amount of cycles that have already been stolen this year, you get an idea of what the total is likely to look like come the end of the year."
He said: "It seems to be an extremely well-organised operation.
"We believe bikes are being stolen, taken out of the city and then exchanged with other stolen bikes to avoid detection."
Police are telling local residents to reconsider leaving their best bikes in the shed, noting that few people would leave a piece of jewellery worth £2,000 in a shed. The police are also stepping up visible bike patrols in crime hotspots and going into schools to warn pupils about bike security.
"We know criminals use bikes as a means to escape from the police after committing burglary or vehicle crime," said Sgt Whittle. "It can be very difficult for the police to catch someone on a bike."
Call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111 with any information about stolen bikes in the area.
In 2012, we reported how Hull was the subject of a two-year research project into attitudes towards cycling in four areas of England with higher-than-average bicycle usage, along with Bristol, Cambridge and the London Borough of Hackney - which found “vast differences in cycling culture,” attributed by its author to the fact that Britain lacks a distinct cycling culture, meaning that it is local factors that help shape the characteristics of a specific place when it comes to cycling.
Dr Rachel Aldred of the University of East London, who led the Cycling Cultures study which ran from January 2010 to December 2011, said: “We wanted to find out what British cycling cultures were like, what supported them, and what local and national factors continue to exist as barriers.”
The four locations in the study, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, were chosen because they all had levels of cycling to work that were more than double the national average of 2.8 per cent, although as the report’s author acknowledged, that is far from the levels of cycling seen in European countries such as the Netherlands or Germany.
There was one common thread running across the four locations, however, namely the issue of bike theft. "Most people we spoke to had experienced some form of bicycle theft", Dr Aldred said.