Terrifying bike-jacking attack - part of a new crime wave

There is a terrifying new wave of bike-jackings happening in London…

In this post we share two interviews. One with a recent 72-year-old bike-jacking victim who provides a disturbing personal account of the attack on him. Another with Sean, from Regent’s Park Cyclists (RPC), who provides in-depth insight into the wider recent attacks on London cyclists.

Interview with John from East Finchley. A victim’s account.

On the morning of 24th October 2023, at approximately 5:30am, John, a 72-year-old cyclist from East Finchley, was robbed of his £2000 e-bike. In this interview, John explains to Stolen Ride what happened and the deep personal impact, including whether he will cycle again…

Please tell us about the bike-jacking incident.

“I was riding on the east side of the outer circle in Regent’s Park and I was heading towards the West End. It was pouring down with rain and the visibility was very poor as the street lighting around the outer circle was not very good and the heavy rain made it worse.

“The incident happened just before Chester Gate, the first thing I heard was another vehicle coming up behind me, which is not uncommon and I was expecting it to pass me by. The next thing I noticed was its head lights reflecting off the wet road very close to me.

“I was just about to look around to see what it was when it bumped into me, knocking me off my bike. I fell onto the pavement and my bike crashed down onto the road. I was picking myself up when one of the thieves came towards me shining a light, possibly a torch, into my face which totally blinded me shouting to back off, back off which I did as I thought he had a knife. When I refocused my vision they were gone off down the road taking my cycle with them.

“It was all over in about 20/25 seconds.

“The only injury I sustained was a strain on my right hip as I have had a total hip joint replacement in my right hip which is the reason I ride an electric assist cycle.”

£2000 e-bike, bike-jacking victim

John’s stolen bike. Cube Nature Hybrid One 500. Frame size 62cm

What was the police response to the incident?

“I called the Police and it took them an hour to turn up, the two Officers that did arrive were very sympathetic.

“They took a statement and then drove around the area where the incident occurred to see if there was any CCTV in the vicinity but there was nothing. They also called into a CCTV Control Room to ask if they had anything recorded around that area but again nothing.

“After driving around checking the area for a while the Police gave me a welcome lift home.”

Has the police response met your expectations?

“With incidents like this I don’t think there is much the Police can do as there is not a lot of evidence to go on. There were no other witnesses and I could not give them a description of the thieves or what type of scooter they were riding.

“I believe the Police record this type of incident as purely bike theft but I think it should be upgraded to armed robbery with violence.”

What has the emotional/mental impact been? What have your feelings and thoughts been since the incident?

“I was a bit traumatised after the incident but I have had great support from my wife, daughters and grandsons.

“Cycling in London’s West End is already a very hazardous way of commuting and now with the rise in Bike Jackings it is becoming very dangerous for cyclists who ride cycles like mine and for the Club Riders who ride bikes worth a lot more than the one I had stolen.

“I was lucky on this occasion, it could have been a lot more serious and I know some other cyclists who have been bike-jacked have been victims of serious violence.”

Has the incident impacted your view on cycling in London?

“I am 72 years old and have been cycling on the streets of London since I was knee high to a grasshopper so I don’t want this incident to put me off cycling as I do enjoy it.

“I don’t yet know if I will get another bike and continue cycling as I will have to get another e-bike again because of the problem I have with my hip and this will make me a target for bike jacking again as this type of crime appears to be becoming an everyday occurrence.”

What advice would you have for other cyclists?

“I would advise other cyclists to try to get a riding partner or partners and always ride where the street lighting is good and there is a lot of other traffic on their route.

“I know this is not always possible, also try not to use the same route every time you cycle if you are a commuting cyclist like me as I think I could possibly have been targeted. I was using the same route where the robbery took place for the past 3 years.”

Interview with Regent’s Park Cyclists (RPC). An appeal for action.

Regent’s Park Cyclists (RPC) is a stakeholder group that represents over 5000 members from 30+ London cycling clubs. In the following interview with Stolen Ride, their spokesperson, Sean, shares in-depth insight into recent bike-jackings.

Can you share a timeline and details of the specific attacks?

“These incidents are not new in London; we know of a series of high profile attacks in Richmond park in 2021 (which received significant media attention at the time).

“We first became aware of the recent crimes in North London on the 27th September. One of our members was targeted near Archway on his way into Regent’s Park. Since then, we have reached out to and spoken to many other victims.

“A FOI request has revealed that in the last 12 months there have been 768 robberies (i.e. involving violence or threat of violence) in London in which bikes have been stolen. We believe the victims we have spoken to represent a small part of this wider problem.”

In your opinion, is there a pattern to the attacks or around the methods used?

“A moped with two or three riders approaches a cyclist who is, generally, riding alone. The moped riders physically force the cyclist off their bike (e.g. push/kick them) causing a crash.

“The moped riders dismount, shout at/threaten the immobilised cyclist, sometimes take their wallet/phone etc., then get back on the moped, with the bike on their shoulders, and ride off.

“The whole interaction is over very quickly, often less than 30 seconds.”

Do you think the victims are being watched and targeted?

“I wouldn’t want to speculate. The attacks we know about have happened to solo riders on roads where many riders pass on any given day.

“We do not yet know of anyone who has been obviously specifically targeted (e.g. followed home).”

What has been the police response?

“We have good relations with the policing team that represents the Royal Parks but their remit and resources are limited; they are not the ones to respond to incidents that take place outside of the Park.

“The police response instead falls to whichever local policing team shows up after a 999 call; victim’s experiences of these responses (and their follow-up) have been overwhelmingly negative.

“Victims I have spoken to have, on the whole, not witnessed urgency or proactivity in their interactions with police; they feel they are being treated as victims of bike ‘theft’ rather than violent robbery.

“As a body trying to coordinate, inform, and reassure the wider London cycling community, RPC has also been disappointed by the police response. We would have hoped to see a coordinated approach – an effort to join up the dots between individual incidents, recognising individual crimes as part of systematic attack on a whole community. We have seen no evidence of any such approach.

“Going forward, I have three requests of the Metropolitan police:

  1. “A clear, coordinated strategy which looks across multiple very-similar attacks, investigating commonality to enable the targeting of whichever group(s) are responsible for these crimes.
  2. A visible, well-communicated crime-prevention strategy to re-establish trust and safety in a community which is now deeply fearful and anxious.
  3. A commitment to engage with the cycling community, to listen to our communal concerns and work with us to develop the two requests listed above (arrests + prevention). We have a wide, well-connected, highly motivated network we can draw upon to support the police if they choose to engage with us.”

In your opinion, what impact have the attacks had on the victims?

“The victims are physically injured and suffer at-times substantial financial loss. But these effects are secondary to the psychological impact these crimes are having. They feel helpless and vulnerable: their form of transport or recreation has been taken away from them, transformed into a source of trauma.”

What impact have the attacks had on the local cycling community do you feel?

“The London cycling community is scared, frustrated and angry.

“Our members feel vulnerable and unsafe; we know that most of them have reduced their cycling as a direct result of these attacks. Our female members, already particularly vulnerable to crime when cycling, are particularly affected. This is having significant mental, social, and physical health implications.”

Following these attacks, what advice are you providing to cyclists? Have you implemented any security measures?

“The most important message I would like to communicate is that if you are attacked, witness someone else being targeted, or have a close encounter with a moped which feels ‘off’: you must report it to the police. This is crucial; it gives us data with which we can motivate the Met.

“Beyond that, it is up to individuals (and individual clubs) to determine what works best for them. Some clubs are advising their members to fit GPS-tracking devices to their bikes. Others are organising group pickups to avoid their riders being picked off when alone. We would love to organise such actions in collaboration with the Met police but, as yet, we have seen little appetite for engagement.”

Have you been in touch with cycling clubs in different cities or countries that have successfully dealt with similar challenges?

“We are in contact with our South London-based sister body (Richmond Park Cyclists) who have dealt with these issues before and have been incredibly helpful and supportive.”

How can the London cycling community come together to help address this issue? Are there any collective efforts we can make?

“Yes – absolutely.

“Write to your MP, your councillors, the Mayor’s office, and the Met Police; bring this situation to their attention and tell them how it is affecting you. We (RPC) are in the early stages of organising collective action, which will be announced in due course on our Instagram and Twitter feeds (both @rpcyclists).”