Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Spate of cycle thefts after bike sheds discovered to have unique safety flaw

One resident who has had two bikes stolen since he moved in admitted 'he felt a bit of an idiot'...

A spate of cycle thefts have taken place after bike sheds in a housing development were discovered to have a rather unbelievable design flaw. 

The ventilation holes in the brick wall exterior are big enough for any would-be thief to simply stick an arm through and open the door from the inside.

One resident, who has had two bikes stolen, said he had lived in the building for three years and went into the bike shed every day but never put 'two and two together'.

He admitted he felt like 'a bit of an idiot'.

As the Cambridge Independent report, the situation is made worse by the fact the thefts happened on a development that has a 'Secured By Design' certificate from police to show that it has been built to prevent crime.

Resident James Williams was one of the unfortunate people to have his bike stolen from the store.

He said: “It’s a real shame because I built the bike myself but I’m hoping the insurance will cover it.

“I think the ease with which the thieves were able to break in surprised everyone.

"Previously in 2019 I had a bike stolen from the bike store but on that occasion even the thieves did not spot that particular security flaw. They had broken the lock so a new sturdier lock was put in its place.

“I have lived there for three years, going in and out of that door every day, and hadn’t put two and two together. I feel like a bit of an idiot for not seeing it but I’m blind to those kinds of things I suppose."

Anti-bike crime campaigner James Hems went to check out the scene in Hobson Road, Great Kneighton, Cambridgeshire, after a neighbour said he had spotted doors to the buildings swinging open early in the morning on the weekend of February 27.

Mr Hems, a member of the Stolen Bikes in Cambridge action group on Facebook, said: “When I got there I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – these storage units are unbelievably easy to break into.

"There are gaps between bricks for ventilation through which you can easily put in an arm and reach the catch inside the door and unlock it.

“To our knowledge, nine of the bike stores were broken into and six bikes were stolen. And there could be other people that aren’t aware of the Facebook group who may have reported thefts. For each group of apartments there is at least one of these units.

“They just took the most valuable ones – people have lost thousands of pounds worth of bikes.

“It’s obvious that these storage areas are not fit for purpose.”

A spokesperson for Countryside Properties, who own the development, said: “We are aware of the recent bicycle thefts from bicycle storage units on Hobson Road.

"This has been reported to the police. We are monitoring the situation and working to ensure the security of the units.”

Cambridge city councillor Katie Thornburrow has promised to meet with the developer to try and rectify the situation.

She said: "It’s very fundamental – you shouldn’t leave an opening that someone can reach into and turn the door handle."

The development by Countryside Properties in Great Kneighton was awarded a Secured By Design certificate to show how specially trained police officers and staff, based at Cambridgeshire Constabulary HQ at Huntingdon, worked with developers, architects and local authority planners to ‘design out crime’ at the planning stage through to construction.

Cllr Thorburrow added: “You have to be able to have an accessible secure store which you rely on to encourage people to use bikes.

"It’s really terrible and I need to feed this back at planning policy level for new developments. But as well as the lessons learnt from this for planning, we need to help current residents."

A  spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Constabulary, has confirmed the thefts: "We received six reports of bike thefts from Hobson Road and Hawkey Road in Cambridge on 27 February. All bikes were believed to have been stolen overnight while locked in communal cycle storage facilities."

Add new comment

20 comments

Avatar
paulnettles | 2 years ago
1 like

Looks to me like the handle is in the wrong place. If it was one brick higher it looks like it would have worked as intended. Having said that, why you'd leave gaps that close to the door is beyond me

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to paulnettles | 2 years ago
2 likes

paulnettles wrote:

Looks to me like the handle is in the wrong place. If it was one brick higher it looks like it would have worked as intended. Having said that, why you'd leave gaps that close to the door is beyond me

Moving the handle would only slightly increase the difficulty of opening it from the outside - just use a bit of wire or loop of string to reach the handle and open the door.

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to paulnettles | 2 years ago
1 like

Don't like these ventilation holes, not only do they allow access to the handle, (none should be wthin a foreamr length of the door) but they allow people outside to see what bikes are inside, and decide whether it is worth breaking in.

Also large enough to allow birds/bats to gain access for nesting/roosting out of the wind, potentially crapping on the bikes

Avatar
huntswheelers | 2 years ago
2 likes

Needs bricking up..... electronic lock card system with press button exit will sort it...

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to huntswheelers | 2 years ago
0 likes

If the lock is sorted out, they wouldn't even need to brick it up.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to huntswheelers | 2 years ago
1 like

I doubt they want any electricity involved. Some mechanical lock handle that requires two hands.

Avatar
ktache | 2 years ago
2 likes

Was there anything within the shed to lock the bike up to?

When I first started using the "bike shed" when I started at Reading Uni, used to be a large gas cylinder store, the lady giving me the key said I should lock my bike up as well, yeah, like I needed to be told that.  I can't say I've left my bike anywhere where it wasn't the best locked up, but that's me.  My Getting to Work Bike probably has more worth in locks than it's value (not to me, though).

Some one broke into the former gas cylinder shed by lifting the gates off the hinges, late one evening, though the only bike inside was locked, so safe.  Solved the next day by the workshop welding blobs on top of the hinges.

Avatar
Hirsute | 2 years ago
3 likes

They should have asked some criminals to help with the design.

Even if they brick it up, how long would it take to remove one brick?
Sounds like the door lock needs some changes. I suppose they don't want people to be locked in, but there must be a two handed option for safety.

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
4 likes
hirsute wrote:

They should have asked some criminals to help with the design.

Even if they brick it up, how long would it take to remove one brick?
Sounds like the door lock needs some changes. I suppose they don't want people to be locked in, but there must be a two handed option for safety.

At least with removing a brick they are breaking and entering. With the current designs the thieves aren't actually committing a crime by gaining entry.
Why tf didn't they spend the money on air bricks??

Avatar
bobrayner replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
3 likes

Captain Badger wrote:
hirsute wrote:

They should have asked some criminals to help with the design. Even if they brick it up, how long would it take to remove one brick? Sounds like the door lock needs some changes. I suppose they don't want people to be locked in, but there must be a two handed option for safety.

At least with removing a brick they are breaking and entering. With the current designs the thieves aren't actually committing a crime by gaining entry. Why tf didn't they spend the money on air bricks??

Well, road.cc isn't the best place for legal pedantry, but trespassing into a bike shed to steal bikes really is an offence. The Theft Act doesn't say "As long as there's no lock-picking or angle-grinders, you're fine". There's plenty of problems with these bikesheds, but the wording of the law isn't too bad.  1

Disclaimer: I am neither lawyer nor bike-thief

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to bobrayner | 2 years ago
1 like

bobrayner wrote:

... 

Disclaimer: I am neither lawyer nor bike-thief

I'm glad you clarified that, and I can see why you'd want to disavow either!

Avatar
hmas1974 | 2 years ago
2 likes

"Specially trained police officer"

My favourite oxymoron.

Avatar
eburtthebike | 2 years ago
2 likes

Utterly staggering; even more staggering is that the design passed through dozens of hands and nobody noticed it.  I'm gobsmacked that the builders didn't notice it and report it either.

Still, should be an easy fix with bricks and cement, but if I'd had a bike stolen, I'd be asking some very pertinent questions of the developers and the police.  I wonder what is the response of the insurance companies who have presumably paid up for the stolen bikes.

Avatar
don simon fbpe replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
0 likes

Why would the builder report it and potentially lose profit?

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to don simon fbpe | 2 years ago
0 likes

don simon fbpe wrote:

Why would the builder report it and potentially lose profit?

So that they don't lose a lot more by being associated with this glaring mistake?  Because they don't think that people should have their bikes stolen?  And they wouldn't lose any profit; they'd bill the designers for putting it right.

Avatar
don simon fbpe replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
0 likes

Indeed, because that's how it works.

Avatar
NPlus1Bikelights | 2 years ago
2 likes

No trained monkey nor small child required. indecision

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
3 likes

I can't believe no-one spotted that. Even if it had smaller holes, I bet it'd still be easy enough to shove through a bent coat-hanger to pull the lever down.

Avatar
flobble replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
0 likes

Which genius decided it would be a good idea to give the location of the insecure lock up in the article?laugh

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to flobble | 2 years ago
1 like

flobble wrote:

Which genius decided it would be a good idea to give the location of the insecure lock up in the article?laugh

In the computer security world, there's such a thing as responsible disclosure - notify the relevant people about the security risk so they can take mitigations. In this case, anyone using that facility should now be using a bike lock, so disclosing where they are located shouldn't be a problem. Also, relying on thieves not knowing where the bikes are is known as "security through obscurity" which is quite a flawed approach as once the information is leaked, it's forever leaked (as opposed to a lock and key - if you lose the key, you can get the lock re-pinned and restore the security).

Latest Comments