Bike-stripping: the unmentioned cycle crime

You don’t have to travel far in London to see the half remains of a once-loved bike. Be that just a frame still locked to a cycle stand, but missing the wheels, or a bike with a missing saddle.

Up until now ‘bike-stripping’ has been a relatively unmentioned type of cycle crime. 

At Stolen Ride we get many private messages on social media and emails from victims. It’s painful to hear the stories; it can really affect their lives and does put some off cycling in London altogether. Whilst we can get the London @StolenRide community watching out for stolen bikes, looking out for a generic saddle is not really going to work.

A Freedom of Information request was placed with the MET police by Stolen Ride in May 2018. It was found that the volume of the theft of individual ‘bike parts’ (parts stolen on their own) is not known by the police. Bike parts are recorded, but when a whole bike is stolen they are also listed individually for identification purposes. To work out if a bike part was the only focus of the crime, instead of a whole bike, would require the police manually checking every crime report.

We believe that the police need to change the way they record the crimes. So they can report on the size of the problem and have the ability to analyse where the hot spots are. They also need to change the way they look at their own bicycle theft prevention activities, to include individual bike parts.

Alongside this, cyclists should always report every incident, even if it is only a saddle stolen that they don’t think will ever be recovered. We know some do not report, however hard we try to persuade them to do so.

While the police have a key role to play in prevention and tackling the criminals, we believe everyone needs to play a part. It’s not just down to the police. This includes bike manufacturers, security brands, shops, online marketplaces, cycle parking providers, councils, cyclists and the general public. For example, the public need to be vigilant and report anything suspicious. Remember that a lot of theft happens in broad daylight and there are witnesses out there.

We think bike-stripping has always been a huge problem in London. It’s hard to tell if it’s on the increase as there is no published data, but at Stolen Ride we certainly hear from an increasing number of victims. We know also from talking to bike shops that they do as well. Also as we said, if you move around London, you don’t have to go far before you see the evidence.

We fear that even if the theft of stolen bikes decreases, thieves will increasingly target bike parts due to the lower risk of getting caught.

Can you protect yourself from bike-stripping? Yes, absolutely.

You can reduce the risk of your whole bike or wheels from being stolen by correctly double locking it (two Sold Secure gold standard D-locks, covering the frame and wheels to a purpose built bike stand), as covered in the London bike locking campaign. But this does not necessarily prevent certain bike parts from being taken from the bike, such as the saddle or other components that can be undone with an Allen key or via quick-release. For this there are special security solutions on the market to replace seat clamps and prevent thieves removing bolts.

On top of this:

  • The bike parking location should be chosen wisely. A busy, well-lit location that does not have any sign of bike-stripping, such as a lonely single locked wheel is best.
  • Take removable parts, such as bike lights, with you when leaving the bike (even if stopping for a couple of minutes).
  • Keep a record of the serial numbers on certain bike parts, such as forks and wheels. It’s also a good idea to take photos of each of these.
  • Register the bike online, but look beyond the standard marking kits and stickers that focus on the bike frame. Instead go for an advanced kit that you can mark all your main bike parts with. If the worst happens and the police track down the stolen bike parts, they can then connect you as the owner

Further details about bike locking can be found here.

We recently launched our #HalfEatenRide campaign. The first step is for the cycling community to get involved by visually demonstrating the size of the problem with their own photos of stripped bikes around the capital. 

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