Approximately five per cent of bicycles stolen are returned to their owners. 17 per cent of cyclists fall victim to bike theft. But why do these thefts occur in the first place? Adam Thorpe of BikeOff talks to BikeBiz...

CHAIN REACTION: Are you a Lacklustre locker?

A bicycle is stolen every minute in the UK with less than five per cent returned to their owners. Bike owners are more likely to have their bike stolen than motorcyclists their motorbike, or car owners their car. It’s not surprising then that cycle theft is the single greatest deterrent to cycle use, even after fears over road safety. Research has shown that 17 per cent of cyclists experience cycle theft, and of these 24 per cent stop cycling and 66 per cent cycle less often. If we are to achieve and sustain increased cycle use we must reduce theft, without compromising the freedom, ease and enjoyment of cycling.

So what does this have to do with bicycle retailers and what can they do to help?
Fear of theft, or experience of theft, means that established urban cyclists are less likely to spend on a good quality bike. ‘Cheap bike – strong lock’ appears to be the fatalistic response of some city bikers – but this is not the attitude of new cyclists who seem to want a new bike and all accessories and the outfits. It’s important to help them equip themselves against crime, so they don’t become the one in four who gives up cycling altogether, because their bike was stolen.

Here are three ways that retailers can get make a difference to help cyclists get smart about theft prevention.
Only sell good quality locks. The Bikeoff research initiative has been working in Brighton and Hove alongside the city’s council, police and other stakeholders to reduce cycle theft. Part of the research involves looking at how cyclists lock their bikes and what locks they use.
In cycle theft hot-spots we find the most common locks used are often weak coil or cable locks – most of which could be cut with garden tools. When we surveyed the local bike shops we found that the most popular selling lock went for between £6.99 and £7.99 and was – you guessed it – a plastic covered cable lock. The popularity of these locks has contributed to the bike theft problem in Brighton and Hove and other many cities.

Cycling advocates in Southwark, London for example, have been campaigning to remove locks that are ‘not fit for purpose’ from the shelves of the bike shops in their borough.
So how do you know what locks are fit for purpose? can help. They are independent testers and certifiers of security products (including bike locks) and offer a rating system for ‘robustness to attack’. There are those that have issues with some of SS’s findings, but for now they are the best independent guide we’ve got.

Alternatively, ask your suppliers what testing they have carried out to prove efficiency of the locks they sell, and also ask your customers what their experiences are, then stock accordingly. Show your customers how to use locks effectively. Bikeoff recorded 8,500 locking events in London bike theft hot-spots in 2007. Our data revealed that 71 per cent of cyclists locked insecurely (only wheel or only frame locked to stand), 27 per cent locked in a moderately secure manner (one wheel and frame locked to stand) and only two per cent locked their bikes securely (both wheels and the frame to the stand.) Bikeoff has responded to these findings by designing and testing new bike parking stands that reduce the opportunities for insecure locking practice – particularly that of only locking the top-tube of the bike to the stand which has been proven to be among the most insecure of practices.

We’ve also produced ‘on stand’ signage that has been proven to be effective at increasing security of locking practices. This said – nothing beats a bit of friendly advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about. So that’s where you, the retailer, come in.
Register the bikes you sell with In London during 2005-06 80,000 bikes were stolen. Only five per cent where recovered and even fewer returned to their owners. Registration of bikes with could go some way to increasing the number of bikes recovered and returned. is linked to the National Mobile Property Register and CheckMEND and is searched by all 43 UK Police forces and by the second-hand trade. Bikes recovered and stolen bikes sold second-hand can be checked and returned. Bike retailers could offer their customers similar protection and piece of mind via registration of frame numbers and details. This service is free of charge to retailers and customers.

The Bikeoff research project, at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design is interested in learning from your experiences and opinions and is hosting a stakeholder seminar, in collaboration with Transport for London, as part of this year’s London Bicycle Film Festival, due to be held at the Barbican, London between October 1st and 5th.
The stakeholder seminar is on Friday October 3rd – if you would like to come, let us know via To make up your mind visit to find out more about the film festival and to find out more about the research project and the seminar.

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