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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 joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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atgni | 7 years ago

More than 160 bikes seized from one man's home in Oxford.

A V Lowe | 12 years ago

Bikes like that are not stolen on spec. There will be a buyer in the frame I suspect. be especially careful if you keep your bikes in a garage/shed which can be viewed in to from the street. as there will be a smash and carry catalogue for known locations where high-end bikes are kept.

This is a refinement on the 'warehouse' listings that will be collated for regular bikes parked at rail stations and colleges.

Not much changed from the 1970's when theft to order from cycle parking at stations was common in SW London.

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