The founder of a charity that aims to reduce violence among young people has warned that young cyclists are at risk of "bike-jackings", and is offering advice on avoiding having bikes stolen as part of the self-defence courses it offers for schools.
Cyclists travelling on quiet back streets and some bike paths can find themselves isolated and vulnerable. There have been reports of muggings on the Bath-Bristol Railway Path http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Police-warn-cyclists-vigilant-spate-robberi..., in Springfield Park in the London Borough of Hackney https://www.lfgss.com/conversations/260063/ and in Denmark Hill https://www.lfgss.com/comments/12019896/.
The most horrifying recent incident was the death of 15-year-old Alan Cartwright, who was stabbed to death on February 27 while riding with friends on Caledonian Road in Islington. Two of Alan's friends had their bikes stolen in the attack.
Charity The Safety Box runs courses in schools that teach defensive tactics to avoid street crime.
Founder Nathaniel Peat told The Times crime correspondent Fiona Hamilton that older teenagers were stealing bikes from younger children to sell them on, because they wanted their own bike, or for gang initiation.
“Often the way [cyclists] dress suggests they might have money which means the bike they’re riding is valuable.
"They wear high-end brands. The kids can tell somebody that’s picked up a top from Primark apart from Zara,” Mr Peat said.
“A lot of young people in affluent areas wear jumpers. In the community [lower socio-economic areas], they’re wearing hoodies.
"Young people can see the difference and can read somebody from the way they dress or the bike that they’re riding.”
Peat told The Times he had worked with an 11-year-old from Fulham, west London, whose bike had been stolen by teenagers, leaving him “completely terrified”.
“He had struggled and told them, ‘No, my mum’s given this to me’. That’s a problem — middle-class children are not aware, they can be so innocent.”
He said he told students never to think they can ride faster than older teenagers, not to take shortcuts through alleyways, and not to show off expensive equipment.
Bike-jacking incidents are not recorded separately from other street crimes so the extent of the problem is hard to determine, though most bike thefts involve bikes being taken from homes or the street.
Nevertheless a bike is often the most valuable item many of us have with us when we're out and about, the easiest to sell and the hardest to trace.
As they used to say on Hill Street Blues: "Let's be careful out there."
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.