A study of bicycle theft in the UK shows that as many as 1,100 bicycles are stolen every day.
Manchester, London and Bristol were the most prevalent cities for bicycle theft, with Greater London being the worst affected region.
Cardiff had the highest number of thefts from a train station, while in Scotland half of the thefts took place in and around the home.
80,000 stolen bikes go unclaimed each year, presumably with owners either shelling out for a new model or giving up on their bikes altogether, an unfortunate fate as a fifth of owners named their bike and gear as their ‘most important asset’. .
While the survey, commissioned by Direct Line, found that 16% of participants spent “as much as £500 on their bike and accessories”, a 2021 survey on cycling week’s Publisher’s readers estimate the average spend figure at £2,685 (Future Publishing BikeTrack Survey, 2021).
For enthusiasts – the people for whom cycling is already a regular pastime and who are therefore less likely to be deterred by road traffic – the loss of a bicycle is likely an even greater financial expense, making bicycle theft likely a significant drawback.
While the UK government has said it is looking for a ‘golden age’ for bicycles, with measures such as increased priority for cyclists within the highway code and £250m to be used by councils to build “protected space for cycling”, bicycle theft is still a major drawback, deterring cyclists from using their bicycle as a means of transport .
The European Commission has also said it is prioritizing walking and cycling in his latest policy, but again, the focus remains on things like “space allocation, safety regulations and adequate infrastructure.” The latter usually refers to bike paths. Although all are very welcome – especially with close strides and sharing space with trucks being number one opponents – fear of theft seems like an obvious unprocessed stone in the effort to increase the popularity of bicycles as a way to get from A to B.
Statistics of the UK and US show that while 19% and 20% of victims report the loss of a bicycle to the police, only 5% of stolen bicycles are returned each year. Instead, victims, and even bike security brands, are doing their best to seek solutions.
One owner lucky (or resourceful) enough to get his stolen bikes back last November was David Wilkins, who used an AirTag GPS tracker to help police recover three stolen bicycles, the highest value being a £10,000 Specialized.
Wilkins told Cycling Weekly the story: “[The police] were very helpful but I got the impression they couldn’t do too much as they said the location wasn’t specific enough, “he” took the case [his] his own hands” and even after locating the bikes, police were told the “AirTag may still be inaccurate”, but only got a hold of it when he and an officer “pressed our ears against the window of the property” and ” beep, beep, beep.” While the police undoubtedly have a lot on their hands, it shouldn’t be up to the victims to play Cludo on tens of thousands of pounds of stolen property.
Bicycle locks have also become more sophisticated, such as Hiplok last year set out to create a solution that can withstand an angle grinder.
With train stations as a common theft zone, Southern Rail has recently introduced secure hubs – with card access only – at Brighton, Horsham, Dorking, Haywards Heath and Lewes train stations, with more promised in Hove, Portslade and Newhaven. For most commuters, however, leaving a bike at a train station feels like the Russian roulette of leaving pride and joy on a flimsy metal stand in a dark corner of the city.
The survey, commissioned by Direct Line, also found that more than half of owners – 61% – did not have specialist bicycle insurance. Keep in mind, though, that bicycles are often covered by home insurance, so that doesn’t mean 61% of owners are completely unprotected. Alison Traboulsi, Marketing Manager at Direct Line Cycling Insurance: “Unlike car insurance, many cyclists are not prepared for the consequences when dealing with bicycle theft or accidents. Replacing a bike, or paying liability costs, can be very expensive and not everyone can do it right away.
“On average 45 bikes are stolen every hour in the UK. Cyclists should consider what protection needs to be built in to ensure they may be covered for this.”
There’s no question that dedicated bicycle insurance is a good idea, but it feels like more could be done at the government and urban level as well.