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Winning the fight against cycle theft

By Christopher Ashley

Our European Bike Stealing Championships video grabbed attention of millions last week. With our last article dedicated to bike stealing we’d like to show you some good examples how to fight bike thieves on a municipal level.

Sacramento Police department’s bike unit

We like what this police unit does – well certainly the part where they are using bait bikes with the GPS tracker to catch bike thieves. And they do it very well. Because they are known for doing that in their neighbourhood, the crooks are now more scared to act. Also the law allows them to publish mugshots, which they do on their Twitter account. And some of them are… interesting.

The Bristol method

Famous for its unicycles, fixies, dubstep and poi, Bristol is the Portland of the UK. Bristol was recently named the most active city in the UK and the 8th most active in the world according to The Active Cities 2015 report. Part of that success is down to regular bike theft crackdowns by the police, much publicised in the local press.

While talking to cyclists and in the local press earlier this year, Acting Detective Inspector Mark Langdon said he wanted to “provide some reassurance about the work we’re doing” and said he was going to “target key people driving the problem…organised criminals”.


In one operation alone 5 people were arrested on suspicion of handling stolen bikes, the pictures of which were published by the police – of the 70 bikes recovered all but 28 were reunited with their owners. Bristol may be weird, but its police are wired right.


Investment is needed to provide cyclists with safe places to park their bikes. Studio RHE are London based architects who’ve designed the capital’s first cycle-in storage space for 250 bikes in an office space refit. You can now cycle straight off the street, down a ramp, and into a secure indoor parking space in your place of work without having to get off your bike once. This is cutting edge architectural vision – it will encourage the end users of the building to seriously consider cycling as a secure option.

Bike ramp in studio RHE’s Alphabeta
Photo: RHE, Studiorhe.com


The police in my town regularly camp outside the train station in the centre of town, and offer registering your bike with them for free. If it’s stolen and they recover it from a criminal’s house they’ll notify you and you can pick it up.


Not only is my bike registered with the police, but also with a variety of apps such as the successful 529 Garage produced by Portland-based start up Project 529. If you discover your bike stolen, you can ping it’s details to every other cyclist with Project 529 on their phone and they can all keep a look out for your beloved bike. As long as we cyclists stick together, we can keep our streets safe from the thieves.

The great Danes

At least 9 out of 10 Danes own a bike – they love them. Yet Danish insurance company Alm Brand conducted a YouGov poll which came up with the alarming statistic that 17% of Danes have at some point stolen a bicycle.

In spite of this dirty Danish secret, the first half of 2015 had the lowest number of reported bike thefts in 20 years – yet it was still a staggering 25,500. In comparison, for the same period in 1995 the figure was 57,790. Either the 83% of Danes who’ve never stolen a bike have given up on reporting their stolen bikes, or they’re getting a lot better at keeping their bikes secure.

With such a high percentage of bike ownership, cycling is well and truly a part of the Danish culture, and there are plenty of bikes to go around. Unless you’ve had your Colnago Master Arabesque stolen, you’re probably not too upset to see your bike go – and for the Danes who really do care, they’ve probably got the best bike security going.

The more bikes people own, all other things being equal, the lower the percentage probability that yours is the bike that gets selected to be stolen. The message? Get more people cycling. Tell people that riding and owning bikes is great. Cycling is the best thing you can do for your mind and body – so return the favour, and keep your bike safe.