Cycling in London is getting more popular by the day. Census data reported that people commuting in London by bike has more than doubled in the last 10 years.
More bikes and less cars is leading to a better capital in my opinion - but on the flip side I'm sure you hate to hear as much as I do about the volume of bikes getting stolen every year. Arguably one of the most frustrating things is that if someone has a bike stolen, it is said that up to 25% of all victims completely give up on cycling altogether after the incident.
There are some things everyone should do to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of cycle theft.
As soon as you have purchased a new bike, record the frame number, bike details and take photos - especially of unique parts/features - the police will ask for this if you are a victim of cycle theft. There are a number of police approved and monitored registers, such as Immobilise.com who also offer bike tagging technology.
The MET often run marking events, for details click here.
This is an easy one to forget, but is very important if you have a high value bike. I chose to take a risk and not insure mine and it left me unable to afford another bike for a long time after it was stolen! Do ensure you read the insurance policy carefully, as there will be rules about bike lock requirements and where you leave your bike.
Do you know that a high percentage of bike thefts happen from owners' residence? If you live in flats, try to avoid communal night locking and leaving in hallways. Try to keep it inside and always properly locked (if you have a garage, consider a ground anchor).
High value bikes are often watched and targeted in advance (even sometimes listed on auction sites before stolen!), so always be one step ahead and be aware of any suspicious activity.
When in public areas, choose well-lit dedicated bike racks in busy areas. Thieves are rarely put off by CCTV, but it is one extra bonus for the Police to have it on film if it does get pinched.
Yes, we all like a bargain... But cheap locks are not something you should save pennies on! Most cheap locks do not even require cutting for thieves to get through, a bit of brute force/stress on the lock is usually enough to break it. Invest wisely and do your research into quality locks - talk to your local bike shop, especially about 'Sold Secure' standard D locks which most insurance companies follow. Ensure you lock the bike correctly around the frame and if possible the front wheel. It is also a good idea to have another lock for the back wheel and seat - essentially anything that could be removed and ensure that the lock is tight and low to the bike rack you are locking it to in order to avoid the thief getting any leverage for forcing it.
If you are parking your bike every day at work in a high risk London location, consider having a separate cheaper bike for Monday - Friday. And keep your pride and joy under wraps at home for your weekend adventures.
Not many thieves are expert cyclists and are usually only looking for a quick steal and return. Most will have an idea about what bike makes cost the most, so it is worth 'decorating' the bike, by covering brand names with stickers to avoid those prying eyes. I do appreciate that you probably do not want to disfigure your pride and joy!
Always be extra vigilant if you notice any attempts on cutting your bike locks and never leave your bike if you return to it and find it has a puncture. It is a common technique to puncture a tyre to make you leave it overnight.
We all need to be careful when buying second hand bikes. Be sure to input the frame number into online registers before buying. If bikes cannot be sold on so easily, then they will no longer be such a golden nugget for thieves.
As mentioned in my previous post, I run the Twitter community @StolenRide which I encourage you all to follow to actively help London victims of bike crime by re-tweeting and looking out for their rides.
An example of one of the bike tweets the community recently received can be seen below. Can you help Drew find his bike that was adapted for his disability? Stolen months before he is due to use it in a major fundraising event.
I know how powerful and connected the cycling community is in London because of @StolenRide and I wonder what could be done at a community/personal level to stop bike theft and help the Police before it happens. Of course I strongly do not recommend anyone confronts a suspected thief, but would a 'Neighbourhood Watch' style system work on a micro bike rack level, or borough level? There are a few 'smart' locks coming onto the market at the moment, which are including a social mobile app element. How do you think we could ignite the power of the big family we all belong to?