Cycle thefts in central London have risen by a whopping 75 per cent in four months according to The Met. Among the worst hit areas are Cavendish Square, off Oxford Street, Soho Square and the streets between Covent garden and the Strand, with thieves targeting more quieter location not covered by CCTV.
The Met says the surge is down to the growing popularity of riding to work and an ever growing market for stolen bikes. It warns that some cyclists are failing to protect their bike properly and suggests employers could help by providing secure storage for cyclists.
The trend is a blow to efforts to encourage cycling in the city, which has seen the number of cycle commuters rise rapidly. There has been a 107 per cent growth in cycle journeys in London since 2000 according to Transport for London, with a nine per cent rise since May last year. An estimated 545,000 cycle journeys are now made every day.
Research indicates a bike is stolen in the UK every 65 seconds and the boom in cycling has created rich pickings for bike thieves, with a fair proportion of stolen bikes ending up on the second-hand market or the internet.
Met crime figures, covering the financial year 2008/09, show 18,218 cycles were stolen over the period - a 1,036 rise on the previous year. The figures show the 20 London wards with the most bicycle thefts, and the worst-hit include the West End and St Jame’s, both in Westminster, as well as Bloomsbury, Holborn and the Bunhill ward in Islington, while Cathedral’s in Southwalk and the Grove ward in Kingston are also high on the list.
The most serious problems are in Westminster, where increased patrols had failed to curb a rise in offending which has seen 426 cycles stolen since the start of April, compared with 244 in the same period last year.
Ways to beat the thieves, say the Met, include using more than one strong lock and avoid cheaper products that are easier for thieves to remove, removing detachable parts such as saddles and wheels to stop them being stolen and to make the cycle less attractive, have bikes marked and keep a note of the frame number, try not to leave expensive bikes on the street and use cheaper alternatives, and ask employers to provide secure storage space for bikes at work