For the majority of cyclists, their bike is their most prized possession and an integral part of their lifestyle. Sadly, around 20,000 bikes are stolen each year in London and the chances of owners being re-united with their bikes are very low.
What would you do if your bike was stolen? Tell the police and check online marketplaces? It is a gut wrenching experience to have your valued possession snatched away, never to be seen again.
How can you be proactive if your bike is stolen? Or how can you help others who have their bikes stolen?
My name is Richard Cantle and I'm the founder of Stolen Ride, a London based service which I believe has one simple solution to increasing bike recovery, through rallying the cycling community together on social media.
Taking on bad with good @StolenRide has an ever-growing community of 'seekers' on Twitter. Simply, riders with bikes stolen in London tweet the bike and location details to @StolenRide, the account retweets and then the community followers retweet the details again. The news and bike details are very quickly spread around thousands, so everyone can look out. When there is a sighting, the bike owner can be very quickly contacted on Twitter, and then the Police can be updated. The details also get automatically pulled into stolenride.co.uk. Rather than users wasting time registering, the tweets are automatically pulled into a modern day "notice board" away from the sometimes cluttered user experience on Twitter.
I hear you ask, does it actually work? The simple answer is yes. Cyclists have recovered their bikes, including James Vernon who had his £4,000 'Parlee Z1' bike stolen in Islington and it was located by a complete stranger in Spain. They connected through the @StolenRide tweet and the bike was successfully returned after months of communication with the authorities.
Armand, the fellow cyclist in Spain that spotted James's bike is a true asset to the cycling community An 'Urban Jedi' that selflessly fights back against bike theft. He has not just located one bike, he recently spotted a £2,000 'Canyon' road bike, which is currently making its way back to the owner thanks to his spotting and work afterwards by the police.
Even celebrities are not exempt from bicycle theft. Since its launch, @StolenRide has received tweets from John Torode from Masterchef who had his bike stolen in Balham and former footballer Mark Bright whose bike was stolen from Portland Street. Also Zac Clayton, an adventurer tweeted the account with details of his stolen bike that he had travelled 20,000 miles around the world on. Safe throughout his journey, but only later to have it stolen from Clapham! Cycle theft affects all, from everyday cyclists with bikes worth hundreds of pounds to cyclists with custom bikes worth many thousands. But whatever the cost or background, every owner has an attachment to their bike and no one is one hundred percent safe.
As cars have become increasingly hard to steal and with a lot of bikes worth thousands of pounds, they will always be a shiny magnet for bike thieves. Whilst you can reduce the risk of having your bike stolen, thieves are always going to make sure they are aware of the latest GPS tracking technology and locks.
I believe that bike manufactures and the authorities need to come together to create a national database for bike registration, well beyond the simple private company measures in current operation. Bikes should be legally registered from the time they are purchased and ownership should be officially transferred. We also need to go beyond bike marking and push into chips during the manufacturing stage.
There is so much more we could do to put off bike thieves and increase recovery. As for me, Stolen Ride is only the start of what I want to do to help the cycling community. The Stolen Ride website is self-funded, but I'm always keen to connect with others to improve it and increase the overall effort, especially in London which is the greatest hotspot for cycle theft in the country.