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Cycle Oxford harnesses social media channels to try and beat the bike thieves

Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and smartphone apps spread word quickly and make it harder to sell bikes on

Cycle Oxford is using social media channels including Twitter, Facebook and Flickr as well as introducing a new Stolen Bikes tab to its smartphone apps to try and help reunite owners with bikes that stolen during a recent spate of thefts in the city.

Anyone unfortunate enough to have their bike stolen in Oxford is asked to send a picture of it by email and it will be added to OCW’s Flickr stream and also appear on its iPhone and Android smartphone apps.

Dan Harris, director of the community co-operative, also known as Oxford Cycle Workshop and entirely separate from local cycle campaign group Cyclox, told the Oxford Mail last Thursday that the initiative had been launched in response to a surge in the number of thefts of high-end bikes in the area.

“This past week has been extraordinary,” he revealed. “I’ve been in the Oxford bike trade for 10 years and I’ve never known such a string of bike thefts out of sheds like this.”

In launching its app, Cycle Oxford hopes not only to highlight thefts and keep track of which bikes have been stolen from where, but also to make it more difficult for thieves to dispose of them.

The power of social media to quickly spread the word was highlighted by 30,000 people viewing a picture on Flickr of one bicycle stolen recently, a 2011 Specialized Allez Elite, with many of Cycle Oxford’s 1,500 followers on Twitter retweeting the link.

“We have better networks in some areas than the police do, so this is a modern solution for the problem,” said Harris. “It is ‘people power’.

“Hopefully the app will be a one stop shop for people to find out what’s going on,” he added.

“It puts everything in one place so that people can have a quick look and get all of the details about thefts.”

Another bike that Cycle Oxford is trying to trace is a fixed gear machine built up over six months at a cost of £750 by 17-year-old Cherwell School pupil Ted Bennett.

The bike, pictured at the top of this article, was taken from his home in Marston on January 4, together with a bike worth £500 that belonged to his sister.

“I’m really gutted because I spent time and money building that bike," he told the Oxford Mail. “To an extent, the thieves would have had to know what they were looking for.”

Sgt James Blackmore, of the Oxford City Centre neighbourhood team at Thames Valley Police commented: “We welcome this initiative and hope that it helps the police neighbourhood team in its efforts to tackle cycle theft.

“It should also make it harder for thieves to sell on stolen cycles.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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