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Where’s your bicycle? No, really — where is it right now?

Cyclists live in fear of having their bicycles stolen — because it’s happened to them before

Two-thirds of cyclists have experienced bicycle theft at least once in their lives, and three-quarters fear that they will fall victim at some time in the future.

That’s the depressing finding of a national security camera company that lays bare the full extent of bicycle theft in the UK.

According to Yorkshire-based CCTV.co.uk, it’s even got to the point that people are spurning machines worth thousands for old clunkers that won’t interest the thieves.

“Virtually every cyclist we spoke to is either a victim of cycle theft, or knows somebody who has had a bicycle stolen,” says CCTV.co.uk spokesperson Jonathan Ratcliffe, “And just as bad is the news that personal experience is making people think that this sort of thing is inevitable.

“Quite a few riders are simply resigned to the fact that theft is part and parcel of bicycle ownership.”

CCTV.co.uk spoke to hundreds of cyclists during September and October, asking them two simple questions about their experiences:

  • Have you ever had your bicycle stolen?
  • Yes – 68%
  • No – 32%
  • Do you fear that you will fall victim to bicycle theft in the future?
  • Yes – 77%
  • No – 11%
  • Not sure – 12%

Jonathan Ratcliffe agrees that these figures are disturbing, especially when they’re broken down further. “We found that more than half of bicycle thefts occur from the home, where owners think their bikes are most secure.

“The second most prolific location is the railway station, where thieves armed with a bolt cutter can take their time to pick off the best machines with the cheapest locks,” he says.

The spate of home thefts is hardly surprising, though, once you realise that people make less of an effort to secure their bicycles in a domestic situation than they would when leaving it somewhere public.

In fact, the huge majority of bicycle thefts from homes happen when an unsecured machine is taken from a shed, garage, communal stairway, or workshop.

That’s backed up by our own interviews with (former) bicycle owners who have their own tales of woe to tell.

“I made the mistake of locking my bike inside the shed, but didn’t actually secure it to anything,” says Dave of Solihull. “All they had to do was break the pathetic padlock on the door, and carry my bike away over their shoulder. Gutted.”

Heather, Northampton: “We learned the hard way that garage doors aren’t as secure as you think, and that you really must must must lock up your bike properly when you get home. What’s worse was the lack of sympathy from the insurance company.”

Tam, Glasgow: “I’ve given up. I never spend more than £100 on a bike second hand these days because I’ve seen too many disappear. My padlock’s more expensive than the bike now.”

Experience of crime and the fear of bike theft could be reduced if owners take easy practical steps, CCTV.co.uk’s Jonathan Ratcliffe says.

“You have to make it not worth the crook’s time and effort to nick your machine,” he says, “Or make it too much of a risk to go near it.”

Ratcliffe recommends:

  • Buy the best bike lock you can afford
  • Get into the habit of securing your bicycle when you store it
  • Fit strong and secure locks to sheds, garages and outhouses
  • Make sure your bike is shackled to something that can’t be moved – a ground anchor is a good investment
  • Invest in a CCTV camera system

“Modern camera systems work both in the day and at night, providing crystal-clear court-ready evidence, and they’re far cheaper than people think,” he says.

If you’re keeping thousands of pounds worth of bicycle in a shed, then it deserves decent security to match.”

Nobody likes being a victim of crime, especially one which can be easily prevented, the CCTV.co.uk spokesperson says.

“We can’t lie – bike theft is like a plague. But you as an owner can do something to stop it.”

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