The London Cycling Campaign today launched its Beat the Thief Campaign in an effort to tackle the downside in the growing popularity of cycling – the growing popularity of bike theft.
Last year 23,000 bicycles were reported stolen in London (an average of 63 per day) up a massive 30 per cent on 2008 with estimates suggesting that between 40-60,000 more bike thefts went unreported – meaning the actual daily average could be between 172 and 227 bikes per day. As part of its campaign the LCC is calling for among other things: the setting up of a dedicated police squad to tackle bike theft; stricter controls on selling bikes online they are calling on websites like Gumtree to demand far stricter levels of ID from sellers and greater proof of ownership.
A survey by the organisation of 500 cyclists found that 1 in 6 cyclists has recognised a bicycle for sale online as being stolen – Gumtree was named by two thirds of those cyclists as the site in question. Last year we reported on the case of a bike stolen in London which was recovered by police in Bristol after it was spotted in an ad in ebay. We also reported on the case of Channel 4 newsreader, and CTC President, Jon Snow who was advised by police to "look on ebay or Gumtree" when his custom made Condor was stolen.
Mike Cavenett, LCC communications officer, said: “Internet sales of stolen bikes are out of control. Imagine if this was stolen cars we were talking about? Something needs to be done about this theft epidemic.”
More traditional routes for disposing of stolen bicycles are also dealt with in the LCC's plan with calls for a code of practice for bike shops buying second hand bikes and for more aggressive policing of street markets such as Brick Lane which is notorious amongst London cyclists - and which has for years been many cyclists first port of call when trying to recover a stolen machine.
A massive 80% of cyclists responding to the LCC's survey said they’ve had at least one bike stolen, with one in ten people saying they've lost four or more bikes to thieves. Over 90% of people report never having had any of their stolen bikes recovered. 70% of people claimed the police made only a token effort to get their bike back.
LCC’s eight-point ‘Beat the Thief’ manifesto calls for increased police activity to reduce theft, shrink the market for stolen bikes and return more recovered bikes to their owners.
1. Creation of a police anti-theft squad The capital needs a dedicated police team to tackle cycle theft, engaging in pro-active ‘stings’ to find persistent offenders and gangs.
2. Tougher action against selling stolen on websites Websites need tough rules on ID, and sellers must be made to provide more information on bikes for sale, providing real photos and frame numbers.
3. Code of practice for bike shops Bike shops need to make sure they do not buy secondhand bikes without proper checks on seller ID and bike provenance. A new code of practice will enable those that sign up to it to demonstrate their good standards.
4. Tougher action against street markets Well-known locations for selling stolen bikes such as Brick Lane market must be policed much more aggressively to stamp out the market for stolen goods.
5. A central repository for recovered bikes A central location where people could recover stolen bikes would make it easier to unite owners with the large number of bikes that are recovered.
6. Regular stakeholder meetings Cyclists, police and politicians must meet regularly to ensure that cycle theft is given sufficiently high priority, and that new developments are reacted to faster.
7. Increasing secure parking provision Thousands more secure cycle parking spaces need to be built for homes, estates, shops, educational institutions, workplaces and transport hubs.
8. Better education for cyclists Cyclists must be given sensible information to help them protect their bikes, such as registering the frame number online, buying insurance and using strong locks. They also need tips on how to avoid buying stolen bikes.
Given the level of bike crime on the city's streets many Londoners will be amazed that the capital does not have a dedicated police unit tackling bicycle crime already. Not only is street crime of this nature acknowledged as a gateway to more serious criminal activity, there is anecdotal evidence that the value of the stolen bike market is attracting more organised criminals.
Unchecked the rise in bike thefts could also start to put a brake on the mayor's cycling revolution - many victims do not replace their bikes and go back to to using other forms of transport.
Have you been the victim of bike crime? What is the situation like where you live and wherever you live what do you think of the LCC's 8 point plan to beat the thieves?
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 road.cc - 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.