Cycling campaigners in east London have hit out at what they describe as “shockingly poor” police reaction to a spate of ‘bike-jackings’ in the Walthamstow Marshes area.
Simon Munk from Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign says he knows of five attacks on cyclists in the area during the past month, with the latest, on Easter Sunday, seeing a bike rider threatened at knifepoint before their bike was stolen.
He told the Waltham Forest Guardian that he believes people on bikes are being specifically targeted by gangs of muggers, and that police, who have said they will increase patrols in the area, should be doing more.
Police were called to an incident on Spring Hill at 10.30pm on Sunday evening after a man was threatened with a knife, punched, and robbed of his bike and other items by a group of 12 men.
Previous attacks include one on Coppermill Lane on 24 March when a man had his bike stolen and was punched by a gang.
The previous week on Orient Way in nearby Leyton, three would-be robbers dropped a bike they had just stolen after knocking the rider from it. Footage of the trio fleeing was recorded by one of two cyclists who gave chase.
“The odd extra patrol on the marshes is something they should be doing anyway,” said Mr Munk.
"The police's approach locally to crime against cyclists is shockingly poor and needs to change.
“One reason why so few people cycle is due to fear of the roads.
"Gangs of muggers being allowed to operate for weeks on end in isolated spots with barely any police response adds to that fear.
“Forcing people on bikes to choose between dodging lorries on Blackhorse Road and muggers on Coppermill Lane is hardly a fun choice at all."
One cyclist posting about the incidents to the Stop Killing Cyclists page on Facebook said that the incidents had led to her avoiding the traffic-free route because of fears about falling victim to the muggers.
Emmeline May said: “This is part of my 'good weather commute'. I've been too scared to go this way since the attacks which means I'm forced onto Lea Bridge Rd at rush hour with all the HGVs and pollution.”
Mr Munk said people shouldn’t be discouraged from riding their bikes on the route, saying: “Keep cycling, but keep your wits about you", he said.
“What’s worrying is most of these attacks aren’t taking place in the dark but in the early evening.
“Maybe consider 'buddying up' by riding alongside others when going through isolated areas,” he added.
While the victims in the atacks highlighted above were adults, last month the founder of a charity that aims to reduce violence among young people warned that youngsters are increasingly becoming victims of ‘bike-jacking’ in London and elsewhere.
Nathaniel Peat’s Safety Box charity is now incorporating advice regarding how to avoid falling victim to robbery of bikes in the self-defence classes it offers at schools.
In February, 15-year-old Alan Cartwright died while cycling on Caledonian Road in Islington shortly after being stabbed, with a man subsequently charged with murder and conspiracy to rob.
The two friends with whom Alan was riding both had their bikes stolen in the attack.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.