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Edinburgh police target bike thieves… and riders not wearing a helmet

Operation Autobiography aims to counter rise in cycle thefts

Edinburgh police today launched an operation to combat bike theft in the city which will involve stopping suspicious looking cyclists this includes those not wearing a helmet. The move comes as figures released today give a detailed breakdown of bike theft in Edinburgh showing the areas most and least affected by the problem over the past year. 

In total 1474 bikes were stolen in Edinburgh last year – averaging four a day. Not surprisingly bike thieves were most active in parts of the city with high student populations. Student towns and cities have traditionally suffered from disproportionately high levels of bike theft partly because they have a bigger cycling population, and because students have tend to be less security conscious about their bikes. On top of that many halls of residence and student flats don't have adequate cycle parking provision.

The police operation in Edinburgh is code-named Operation Autobiography and is a response to steadily climbing rates of cycle theft over the last few years. As part of the operation police say they will be “profiling” cyclists, a team will target people riding bikes that don't fit… and those riding without helmets. Police have also drawn up a hit-list of serial bike thieves operating in the city and will be sending officers out to second hand shops in a bid to recover more stolen bikes. At present between 60 and 80 bicycles a month are recovered by the police, often because they are dumped on the streets. Plain clothes police teams will also be on patrol to try and catch bike thieves in the act.

Edinburgh, like other cities, is finding that more bikes means more bike thefts, particularly when the upsurge in cycling is not matched by proper cycle-parking facilities. These days the profile of a typical bike thief has started to change – the vast majority of British bike thieves are still opportunists, often drug addicts and more bikes means more opportunity, but the rise in the value of bikes ridden in UK cities has also lead to more professional gangs moving in (and even some of the opportunists are more discerning) targeting high end machines which are either sold on quickly or more likely broken for spares as has long been the practice with stolen motorcycles.

Whatever part of the country you live in the advice on cycle security is the same:

  • Buy the best lock you can – ideally a D-lock or heavy duty chain.
  • Lock your bike to something secure and ideally in plain sight
  • Fill the shackle with as much bike as possible, remove the front wheel and get that in there too – this makes it harder for thieves to attack your lock.
  • If you keep your bike in a shed at home invest in a ground anchor or similar and make it hard to get into the shed in the first place.
  • Don't keep tools that could be used to attack your bike lock in the same place as your bike.
  • Check your home contents insurance to see if your bike is covered and if it isn't consider getting some standalone insurance.
  • Never give a thief an opportunity by leaving your bike unlocked and unattended for even a moment
  • Always make it as hard as possible for anyone to steal your bike
  • Always note the frame serial number of your bike and ideally get it marked in some way – in some place the police will do this for you.

Click here for more details on the situation in Edinburgh


Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.

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