London cycling continues to grow at a rapid rate and the Mayor of London's recent investment promise of £770m will no doubt have a positive impact on cycling in the capital.
However, there are major underlying problems that, if not tackled quickly and correctly, will disrupt growth. One that requires a clear strategy, built on solid intelligence, is cycle theft.
In September this year we (Stolen Ride and London Cycling Campaign) decided to work with an online survey consultancy (Quanteze) to run a London cycling survey, in order to gain a true understanding of the experiences and needs of London cyclists, especially in relation to cycle theft.
The survey had 1800 responses from London cyclists and the results put the spotlight on the critical need for more bike stands in London; and the imperative to educate riders about using quality bike locks and good locking techniques.
More than 75% of the cyclists surveyed want to see more bike stands and the current lack of stands is forcing riders to lock bikes at less secure locations where theft is more likely.
One of the respondents mentioned: "In some parts of London it can take me 5-10 minutes to find an appropriate place to lock my bike", whilst another said, "Amsterdam has a network of free or very low cost secure parking facilities. On a recent trip we found one close to everywhere we needed to leave our bikes. At the least, London needs bike hoops on every other street corner."
Distressingly, more than 45% of riders surveyed had at least one bicycle stolen and 19% said they had been victims of two or more bike thefts. The most common location for thefts was outside their place of work (13%). Of those who had bikes stolen, only 6% said they had it returned.
With places of work being a common topic, respondents were keen to point out the onus on employers to provide adequate facilities for cyclists. One person explained: "Employers also need to make more effort to help their employees store their bikes safely. E.g. inside an office building."
Nearly all (91%) of bikes stolen from a public place were locked; however a significant number of owners (46%) had only used cheaper cable-type locks. Following theft, virtually all riders (95%) stepped up their bike security, the use of different locks or locking systems being the most common change.
Many riders pointed out that there needs to be increased education on the subject of bike locks. One said: "Cyclists still lock bikes incorrectly, fuelling the market in stolen bikes; need to educate cyclists' best way to lock bikes. Quick release wheels should be replaced with key-locking wheel nuts on most bikes sold in London." Another explained: "When I had my bike stolen I had a cheap lock. I foolishly thought all D locks were of a similar standard. A greater awareness of the importance of a good lock would be a step forward."
Naturally with the high level of cycle theft in London, 55% reported being 'very concerned' with the security of their bikes out and about. One of the cyclists said: "I don't use my expensive bike for commuting because I am too scared it will be stolen. I use a beater bike instead."
Even with the high level of concern many do not have theft insurance. 4 in 10 cyclists reported having no insurance protection at all. The average reported value of a stolen bike was over £550. So with no insurance, the financial impact (not to mention the other impacts) of theft is huge.
In 2017 I will expand Stolen Ride into a cycle theft prevention and educational brand. Based on the information gained from this survey, bike locks and cycle parking will be a major focus.