Bike theft London campaign 2023: insights and analysis

30th August 2023
Nick Titchener headshot

Nick Titchener

Managing Partner

In Brief

With the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone to cover the whole of London, more people will be considering cycling. Here we highlight which areas in the capital suffer most from bike theft, with half of all crimes in just 8 of the 32 boroughs.

Bike theft is one of the most common types of theft in London, with an incident occurring every 16 minutes. Plus, just 1% of cases result in a charge or a police warning.

However, if you do find yourself accused of bike theft, you can face time in prison. Once accused, you should consult specialist theft defence solicitors as soon as possible.



Hackney Gazette:

This is local London:

In those 8 boroughs, you are more than twice as likely to have your bike stolen compared to the rest of London

(Source: Metropolitan Police Service – Monthly crime data)

Police data has revealed that Hackney, Southwark and Tower Hamlets are the top 3 most impacted boroughs in London for the highest number of bike theft reports in the last year. 

Camden, Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea rank in the top eight boroughs worst affected by bike theft offences per 1,000 per capita. In those 8 boroughs, you are more than twice as likely to have your bike stolen compared to the rest of London. 

Comparing bike theft reports to the outer areas of the capital, you are 12 times more likely to have your bike stolen in Hammersmith and Fulham, Hackney and Camden than you are in Harrow, Bexley and Havering.

The data, which was collated by London criminal solicitors Lawtons in December 2022, shares statistics from November 2021 to November 2022. This analysis comes after 4 times as many Londoners live within 400m of the cycle network now since 2016. With more travel disruption planned in January due to rail and 

bus strikes, cycling into work will be the only option for many in central zones across London. 

The eight London boroughs that have the highest bike theft offences:

  • Hackney – 1,869
  • Southwark – 1,812
  • Tower Hamlets – 1,760
  • Camden – 1,567
  • Westminster – 1,564
  • Hammersmith and Fulham – 1,448
  • Islington – 1,268
  • Lambeth – 1,267

The borough with the lowest levels of this crime are situated outside of the central London zones:

  • Bexley – 120
  • Harrow – 144
  • Havering – 153
  • Enfield – 201
  • Barking and Dagenham – 211
  • Croydon – 223
  • Sutton – 237
  • Hillingdon – 241

Nick Titchener, criminal defence solicitor at London law firm Lawtons Solicitors, says: 

“We are seeing from the latest data that bike thefts are soaring in central London with the outer boroughs minimally impacted in comparison. More people living and commuting around London will rely on cycling in the New Year for a number of reasons. The cost of living crisis after Christmas will impact people’s travel plans, commuters will be seeking more low-cost options and with January well known for those planning a health kick, the number of cyclists on the roads in London will increase. 

Only 1.1% of all bike thefts lead to a formal sanction, including a suspect being charged or receiving a caution. This figure is unchanged compared to 20/21 data, so those planning to cycle into London’s central zones in the New Year are being urged to take extra precautions by locking up their bikes somewhere safe or investing in efficient security measures and locks that will deter criminals from stealing their bikes”. 

What actions can you take to maximise your chance of recovery if your bike is stolen? 

Chris Smith, MD 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.”

Tips to improve bike security

The London Borough of Waltham Forest says the following steps will help residents keep their bikes secure:

  • Use a heavy-duty D-lock that is ideally Sold Secure rated. Buy a lock that costs a third of the value of your bicycle
  • Use two different high-quality locks. This would make it more awkward for thieves as they would have to use different types of tools to remove them. The council recommends a heavy-duty D lock and a robust chain or cable
  • Lock both the frame and wheels to the cycle parking
  • Secure your bike as close to the stand as possible. Your bike needs to be difficult to manoeuvre 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. It will also make it easier to find, should it get stolen

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