Local cyclists have become so frustrated that they have set up social media groups aiming to retrieve stolen bikes themselves. More than 100 bike owners have been reunited with their bikes this way.
The Cambridgeshire area experienced a 5% increase in bike theft last year, while five London boroughs reported increases of more than 20%.
At the other end of the scale, some of the UK’s most popular commuter areas saw a welcome decrease in bike crime over the 12 months up to September 2020. Milton Keynes reported a 30% drop, followed by Essex (17%), Bedford (8%) and St Albans (8%).
The data, collated by Lawtons Law, Criminal Defence Solicitors in Cambridge, was released on 3 February 2021. It covers the first six months of Covid restrictions, up until September 2020, as well as the peak spring/summer cycling season.
Cyclists should be particularly careful around Cambridge North railway station, described as a hotspot for bike theft, with Station Square and Guildhall Street also targeted by thieves. Even with fewer people commuting into work during the lockdown, Cambridgeshire still remains one of the worst affected areas in the country.
As restrictions begin to ease, bike owners are being encouraged to invest in security equipment, after the ONS found that over half (51%) of all bike thefts in the UK involve bicycles not locked or secured.
How to avoid falling victim to bike theft
Nick Titchener, criminal defence solicitor at London law firm Lawtons Solicitors, pinpointed some of the issues around bike crime. He said: “Unfortunately, suspects aren’t being identified because there’s usually no relationship between themselves and the victim and it’s a relatively low-priority crime. On top of this, owners often don’t document the ownership of their bike, making it difficult to prosecute even if the perpetrator is caught.
“It’s essential that you document your bike to help you recover it in the case of theft. Keep your receipt, make a record of the serial number and register your bike with a bicycle marking and registration scheme. This will enable the police to trace your bike back to you if it is stolen and recovered.”
Top tips to improve bike security
Both residents and commuters should follow these steps to keep their bikes secure:
- Use a heavy-duty D-lock, ideally a Sold Secure-rated one that costs a third of your bike’s value
- Use two different high-quality security devices, such as a D-lock and a strong chain or cable. Thieves will need various tools to remove them
- Lock both the frame and wheels to the cycle stand
- Secure your bike as close to the stand as possible, making it difficult to move, with no leverage points for thieves
- Take any quick-release parts with you, e.g. quick-release saddles and wheels
- Remove your lights
- Register your bike. The sticker will put thieves off and make it easier to find if stolen
How can you maximise your chances of recovering a stolen bike?
Chris Smith, managing director at Pendle Bike Racks, says:
“Hopefully you will have registered your bike with BikeRegister and placed a security mark on your bike. The mark serves as a visible deterrent, because the owner of a marked bike can be traced and the odds of arrest/prosecution are significantly higher. It also makes the stolen bike much more difficult to sell. If you happen to find your freshly stolen bike on a social media marketplace, resist the urge to go vigilante! As tempting as it might be to bang down the door and take back what is rightfully yours, the police are there for a reason.
“Lock all parts of your bike (not just the frame) to a secure bike rack using a top-quality lock. We recommend looking for the Sold Secure gold or diamond class locks. Also make sure you check out the bike rack. Cunning thieves have been known to cut sections out of steel stands and cover the gaps with stickers – then pluck a locked bike away with consummate ease.
“If you can’t get your lock around them, remove all quick-release items from your bike and take them with you – for example your seat post, lights or your front wheel. Quick release is a great system for the rider, but unfortunately it is great for the thief as well.”