Bike thefts rising
A few months ago we were warned that lockdown’s boost for bike sales would likely spur an increase in thefts, as opportunistic criminals would look hungrily at the many new bikes and electric bikes on Britain’s streets, some of which have been bought using the savings made over the pandemic.
It appears that this has rung true, with a tangible rise in violent bike theft across the country, particularly in London, where there have been more than 10 incidents of ‘bike-jacking’ each week. Indeed, Richmond Park, a cycling enclave in South London, two weeks ago experienced four violent thefts instigated by moped-riding, machete-wielding thugs - including on a professional cyclist who, on a sunny Thursday afternoon, was dragged for 100 metres by the thieves before having their £10,000 bike stolen.
While cyclists have long put up with the threat of armed thieves, traditionally it has occurred on quiet lanes and near canals, not in broad daylight as has now happened in Richmond and elsewhere. These more brazen attacks are likely due to to the high demand for bikes that the pandemic has fuelled - bike sales are at an unprecedented level for retailers as well as in the second-hand market, where it is relatively easy to advertise stolen bikes. Online sites that cater for used goods will sometimes stock suspiciously low prices for high end bikes - many cyclists have found their stolen bike here (other bikes end up abroad, with one Londoner finding that their bike had ended up in Poland.)
Unfortunately, other than the obvious material loss, the emotional trauma and fear that incidences like this create has wider ramifications for the cycling community. With a real increase in riders over lockdown, the great gains made could be hindered by people thinking twice from getting on their bike. Indeed, already areas in which these attacks have occurred have seen a decrease in cycling numbers, with Strava suggesting numbers are down 80% in Richmond Park since the thefts. And while some have pointed out this could stop the slow growth of female cycling, the universal threat of knife crime means gender has little impact on who is affected.
This is bad timing with the onset of worse weather (always detrimental to cycling numbers) and the revelation that demand across the country for safe bike storage is currently massively outstripping supply (with thousands of Britons on waiting lists.) Until something is done to make cyclists feel safer, Government's concurrent push for alternative transport will be hamstrung.
In the meantime, here are some important things to keep in mind to prevent bike theft. These include double locking your bike to deter and/or slow down any potential attempt of theft, of which at least one should be a D lock. Additionally, locking the frame and the wheels to the stand as close as you can to give no room for manoeuvre for the thieves is strongly advised.
Whatever removable parts you can carry should be taken with you (on our electrics bikes this could be the battery and controller [the former can also be secured using the optional pod lock.] Also choose a good location for storing your bike, somewhere public with ideally some CCTV coverage.
Finally, remember that physically securing your bike extends to your online presence, so don't advertise a regular path on Strava that thieves could memorise, instead use private mode where you can.
If your bike is taken, act fast and inform the police as soon as possible.