Bicycle theft rate analysis

When viewing crime statistics you typically either see ‘number of crimes’ or ‘crime rate’. In this post we go beyond normal data calculations, to show the risk of having a bike stolen (for people who actually ride bikes).

Crime rate is usually the most standard way for the authorities and researchers to study and present crime data. Rather than just presenting the number of crimes as a raw figure.

This is because it brings in the population size, so it’s useful for comparing geographical areas and timespans. In the UK the crime rate is usually calculated per 1000 (people) and in larger countries around the world per 100,000.

But not everyone in the general population rides or owns a bike… So, let’s take a look at bicycle ownership percentages, per region in England, to see how that impacts the statistics for bicycle theft.

Each year the Department for Transport runs a travel survey to understand how people get around (walking, driving, cycling and other methods).

The DfT survey also collects data about bicycle ownership, by region. After talking with the team behind the survey, we have gained data for bicycle ownership (ages 5+) by region in England for two combined years – 2018/2019. This was recommended for analysis, instead of more recent years, due to Covid impacting data collection and sample sizes.

Mixing this data with bicycle theft data for each region and population size (ages 5+), the following shows the bicycle theft rate ‘for those who own or have access to a bicycle’ (per 1000, ages 5+).

Taking London as an example, the ‘bicycle theft rate’ for us cyclists is actually more than three times higher than the crime rate figure we are normally presented with.

North East
North West
Yorkshire and The Humber
East Midlands
West Midlands
East of England
London
South East
South West
England
Bicycle theft rate (per 1000)
3.1
2.7
2.8
2.2
2.2
2.4
8.3
2.8
2.1
3.2
Crime rate (per 1000)
1.2
1.1
1.2
1.2
0.8
1.2
2.5
1.3
1.0
1.3

Data and sources

The following data (and sources) were used to arrive at the bicycle theft rate (per 1000):

North East
North West
Yorkshire and The Humber
East Midlands
West Midlands
East of England
London
South East
South West
England
General population
2,512,700
7,009,300
5,182,300
4,627,100
5,615,300
5,985,500
8,270,800
8,782,800
5,426,800
53,412,700
Owns or has access to a bicycle
39%
40%
41%
52%
36%
52%
30%
46%
50%
42%
Cycling population
979,953
2,803,720
2,124,743
2,406,092
2,021,508
3,112,460
2,481,240
4,040,088
2,713,400
22,433,334
Bicycle thefts
2,999
7,582
5,995
5,344
4,400
7,459
20,585
11,136
5,620
71,120
  • ‘General population’ source: Census 2021 (population ages 5+)
  • ‘Owns or has access to a bicycle’ source: Department for Transport survey, 2018/2019  (ages 5+)
  • ‘Bicycle thefts’ data source: Home Office (year ending June 2022)

The data and process is far from an exact science, with survey samples, populations, bike ownership and crime figures constantly changing. However, the data still produces an interesting new analysis into the theft rate for cyclists.