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.”

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.