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Bike Theft Must be Taken Seriously


A study published by the home insurance team at ComparetheMarket, along with figures derived by the Lib Dems, both reveal a worrying picture for UK cyclists. Read on to learn how bike thefts are escalating across the country and what some local authorities are doing.

Cycling is increasingly recognised as a cost effective and environmentally conscious transport option. Saving on transport costs alongside keeping fit are cited as two of the primary reasons why weekday cycling journeys in the UK have surged by a massive 47% since March 2022. But statistics show that cyclists face an increasingly high risk of losing their bikes to thieves.

The home insurance team at ComparetheMarket have examined bike theft statistics from 2015 to 2021 to find out whether this type of crime is escalating. Their research has revealed varying statistics across the UK and identified regions at the greatest risk of bike theft.

And the Liberal Democrats have examined data from bike theft statistics for England and Wales for the period from July 2021 to June 2022. This revealed that out of 74,421 cases reported to the police no suspects were identified in 66,769 cases. Almost 90% of all bicycle theft cases were closed without a suspect ever being identified and only 1.7% of cases resulted in someone being charged.

Areas at Risk of Bike Theft

ComparetheMarket has determined that cyclists in London face the greatest risk. They have predicted that around 23,000 bike thefts will have occurred in the city over 2022 which equates to a bike theft probability score of 5.4 out of 10.

But London is not indicated to have experienced the highest growth in bike thefts. Leicestershire is shown to have suffered the most significant increase in bike thefts over recent years with bike theft reports to the police escalating by 23% between 2020 and 2021. Wiltshire, Humberside, South Yorkshire, Merseyside and Norfolk are all reported to have experienced double-digit percentage increases in bike theft over this time period.

At the other end of the scale, Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall, Warwickshire and Durham are all indicated to have bike theft probability scores below 2. But it’s noted that nowhere in the UK is free from the risk of bicycle theft.

Data comparison has highlighted significant regional differences in the performances of UK police forces. Sussex has been identified as the worst performing area with no suspects identified in 96.1% of cases. The Metropolitan police region has been the second worst with no suspects identified in 94.8% of cases followed by Hampshire with 94.2% of cases, Surrey with 91.5% and Cambridgeshire with 91%.

Areas that had the best police performance also tended to have the fewest number of bike theft cases. Dyfed-Powys, Cumbria, Durham and Gwent all had fewer than 300 reported cases over the 12 month period from July 2021 to June 2022.

The bottom line for cyclists is that if your bike gets stolen there is very little chance the thief will ever be caught and even less chance the bike will be recovered.

Bike Theft Impact

Many claim these statistics show how police forces fail to take bike theft seriously. Criminals know that bike theft is a low-risk, high-reward crime that’s easy to carry out and doesn’t attract the same level of police attention as other forms of acquisitive crime. Home office statistics show that for the 12 months up to March 2022 only 6.3% of robbery offences and 4.1% of thefts in England and Wales resulted in charges. But the figures specifically for bike theft are, as noted, much worse.

According to the Office for National Statistics, victims of bicycle theft tend to be aged between 16 and 35 and have low incomes. It`s clear that bike theft has the greatest impact on the young and those who are disadvantaged. They are less likely to have safe places to securely store their bikes and are most likely not to have insurance. While it`s already enormously difficult for young people to find affordable places to live, the need for secure bicycle storage exacerbates this challenge.

Another important aspect is that young and disadvantaged people are most likely to be reliant on their bicycles as their only form of affordable transport. Without their bikes they can’t get to work, travel to college, do their shopping or visit friends and family. The cost of public transport is already too much for many, which is why they rely on their bikes.

As well as having a significant financial cost, cycle theft has a serious emotional and psychological impact. London’s cycle theft crimewave has prompted many victims to publish online victim statements that starkly reflect the human impact of these crimes. 

Maria from Tower Hamlets stated:

“Having my new bike stolen has made me feel unsafe in my neighbourhood. My bike was my mode of transportation, especially during lockdown, so the theft limited my ability to exercise outdoors and to go buy essentials.”

Alex from Camden said:

“I had my bike stolen via a break in to my property, it’s devastating. My bike is a massive component of my life, I use it to get to work, see friends and to train for an Ironman. So having it stolen goes way beyond the monetary loss.”

Amanzhol from London reported:

“As a student without insurance the financial impact was really hard and I went over a month without a bike (my main mode of transport) until I could afford a new one. The incident left me feeling uneasy in my own area and was a devastating thing to happen just before returning to uni.”

Tinashe from Lambeth said:

“I used my bicycle as a reliable means of getting to my workplace as well as other essential trips. With low income and precarious work available, I currently have no way of replacing it. Having the bike stolen outside my house in the borough of Lambeth has left me very anxious.”

Claire from Hackney submitted the following statement:

“As a woman in London my bike gave me safety. I’ve now had 3 bicycles stolen in 4 months and can no longer afford to replace them. Now the only way I can get to work is by rush-hour transport in a pandemic and at night have a long walk home in the dark.”

The huge impact suffered by victims of cycle theft is abundantly apparent from the many submitted statements. They reflect how people rely on their bikes and how losing them to theft is an enormous blow.

What Local Authorities are Doing to Prevent Bike Theft

The immense impact of cycle theft is recognised by some local authorities who are taking practical measures to provide what cyclists need. One example is in Brighton where secure cycle parking is part of the council’s local cycling and walking infrastructure plan.

Brighton is one of the areas badly affected by escalation in bike theft. In 2021 only two suspects were charged after there had been 929 cycle thefts between January 1st and November 30th. This represents a paltry 0.22% of the reported crimes.

It`s recognised that people living in flats, shared accommodation and smaller houses often have nowhere to securely store their bikes. While there may be secure on-street parking facilities for cars, the same doesn’t exist for bicycles. This has led to a massive demand for secure cycle hangars which are now being installed around the city.

By spring 2023 it`s anticipated that Brighton council will have installed 150 cycle hangars providing around 900 spaces for bikes. Spaces in hangars already installed were immediately snapped up by nearby cyclists and a huge waiting list quickly grew, demonstrating the popularity of this security tactic.

In Leeds the city council, along with West Yorkshire Police, have launched a joint initiative to combat cycle crime and encourage cycling around the city. Their initiative, funded by Active Travel Fund, will help over 3,000 cyclists across the city to security mark their bike and register their details on the National Cycle Database run by BikeRegister.

In Newark a number of secure street cycle pods have been installed throughout the town centre. Users have reported how the pods are easy to use, conveniently located and enable cyclists to travel into town on their bikes knowing they have somewhere safe to store them while at work or out shopping.

Police forces and local authorities up and down the country are recognising the need for improved cycle security and many are taking practical steps to provide what cyclists need.

Find the Best Bike Security Solutions

 The Need for Cycle Security

Anna McEntee, director at Comparethemarket, has said:

“With so many bike thefts taking place across the country, it’s crucial that cyclists do everything in their power to prevent their bikes from being stolen. This should include investing in high-quality locks, being careful about where you park your bike and registering with the National Cycle Database."

“You should also check if your home insurance policy covers bike theft as standard and consider taking out additional cover if it doesn’t. You’ll likely need cover for when you’re out and about as well as when you’re parked up at home, so make sure the policy applies in both situations as they differ between providers.”

We’ve previously talked about what cyclists can and should do to protect their bikes:

The previously mentioned report from home insurer ComparetheMarket make these three important recommendations:

  • Always double lock.
    • They recommend investing in a couple of high quality locks which will deter potential thieves.
  • Carefully consider where you park your bike. 
    • They sensibly recommend securing your bike to something that cannot be moved, broken or cut through.
  • Register your bike with the National Cycle Database. 
    • The police do recover some stolen bicycles and this database helps to return them to their rightful owners.

If you have any questions about cycle security or if you have any special requirements remember that we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll provide you with free, expert advice.

This message was added on Thursday 12th January 2023

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