Michael has had working experience in the European vehicle industry.
The Menace of Bicycle Theft
A televised experiment was carried out involving placing a bike strategically in different parts of central London. These predetermined spots included the front of the Scotland Yard headquarter building, an area along a busy main street leading to a subway during rush hours, and the Piccadilly circus where there is typically a great influx of tourists.
The aim of the experiment was to demonstrate how easy it would be to steal a bike in broad daylight. There were CCTV cameras everywhere and a massive footfall of pedestrians. In fact, there was even a uniformed policeman standing a few feet from one of these selected spots. Yet none of these factors made any difference at all.
Despite the fact that the perpetrator in this experiment used a conspicuous bow-cutter, a hacksaw, and a noisy hand-held machine to cut through the locks, not a single person intervened to stop him, ask questions or contact the authorities. In each of the chosen locations, the result was the same. The lock was dismantled and the man was able to take off with the bike without incident. No one so much as approached, spoke, or took a photo using their mobile phone camera.
In conjunction with universities and the police department, Project 529 Garage has built a database that was originally started by J. Allard, an executive from Microsoft. The statistics they have gathered show that a total of 2 million bicycles are stolen in the US every year. That boils down to one bike every 30 seconds! A quarter of these stolen bicycles are used to commit other crimes and the annual cost of this crime is over $1 billion.
In the UK, London Cycling Campaign and Stolen Ride combined forces and commissioned an online Quanteze survey of 1,800 cyclists in London. Over 45% of them claimed to have had their bicycle stolen at least once. Most of the thefts occurred outside places of work. Only 6% of these respondents ever got their bikes back.
Since only one in three bicycles are ever recovered once they are gone, it is the job of the bicycle owner to make it as difficult as possible (if not unattainable) for a thief to make away with his or her compound machine. Here are four tips on how this can be achieved.
1. Procure a gold standard lock
2. Use the proper securing technique
3. Mind your location
4. Take strategic action
2 million bicycles are stolen every year. That boils down to one bike every 30 seconds. A quarter of these stolen bicycles are used to commit other crimes and the annual cost of this crime is over $1 billion.
1. A Gold Standard Lock
Cable locks are rather popular, but unfortunately, they can also be easily broken by a clipping hand tool in a matter of seconds. Heavy chain locks can also be severed by bolt cutters which a thief will likely be carrying along with them concealed in a backpack.
You need to purchase a lock that is gold standard, which means it has been tested and proven to belong to the highest category of security. The best thing you can do is not simply to sacrifice and invest money in purchasing a quality bicycle, but to also ensure that 10-20% of your cost goes to its security.
According to the above-mentioned Quanteze report, 91% of the stolen bikes were actually locked. How is that? Well, despite all the marketing hype around how bicycle locks in today's market meet industrial standards for safety and other exaggerated claims, the majority of them have proved to be no match when tested against simple everyday tools. They can be cut or dismantled within seconds. Little wonder then that 80 bikes are stolen in public places like central London each day.
One of the safest locks you can purchase for your bicycle is the U-lock or D-lock. The design and material used make these tough to penetrate. You can use this to secure the main part of the bike and then other types of locks like the cable locks to tie around the detachable parts of the bike like the seat. For best results, you need to have at least three locks clamped onto your bike. Ensure beforehand that any lock that you use is completely corrosion resistant.
A thief will typically be on a narrow execution time frame. They will therefore be quickly turned away upon seeing three locks of varying tensile strengths requiring different tools to cut through. Apart from these locks, there are also devices that can be attached to the wheel of the bike to make it impossible for the thief to actually ride it, even if they somehow succeeded in breaking the security.
2. The Right Securing Technique
When locking your bike, ensure that the space within the lock is used up as much as possible. In order to achieve this, the lock should encompass the bike's mainframe, the wheel, and the support structure. If it is not possible to secure the bike with different locks in one place, it is best to look for another stand or support that will allow it.
Determine beforehand, an ideal structure where it will be possible to have the combination of these three occupying as much of the lock's interior as possible. It will eliminate any room for maneuvering if someone comes along to try their luck with a cutter or some other nasty tool when you have already snapped your lock in place. Remember to always secure in such a way that the keyhole is facing the ground. This makes it more difficult for someone to attempt unlocking it with a key.
Every detachable part of the bike needs to be properly fastened. In fact, if your wheels are detachable, it is even better because these can then be clamped together with the mainframe to reduce any space for exerting tension. At the same time, if your lock closely connects the mainframe, wheels, and other parts together, it will discourage a thief from applying pressure on the locks. This is because forcing them would likely result in physical damage to the bike.
After locking, always double or triple check to ensure the bike is firmly secure before walking away. When different parts of a machine are clamped together, a lock can give the impression of having snapped into place when this is not the case at all. Confirm by giving it a firm jerk before moving off. Even if you plan on being away for a short time, always make sure that your bicycle is securely locked.
3. Mind Your Location
The location where you leave your bike is essential. Avoid locking your machine in dark or isolated places, but instead, secure it in an area where there is plenty of footfall and preferably many other bikes as well. Left by itself, especially in an isolated place, a bike will stand out and become an easy target. Likewise, dark areas like shadowy alleyways mean that the activities of a thief will not be easily detectable. Ensure that the spot you choose is open and well lit as this will add a layer of deterrence to any potential mischief.
Often, bikes are stolen when owners fail to take precautions. There are people for whom the practice of nicking bikes is not just a pastime or hobby, but a means of livelihood. They will come prepared, driving through residential neighborhoods, commercial streets, and other places in vans equipped with tools for the job.
So always confirm that the stand or structure that you have secured your bike to is immovable, like the rails of a bridge. Avoid anything that can be disengaged or carried off like a post or support that can easily be dislodged. Even at home, the idea of keeping a bike in the basement or garage does not mean it is safe. The bicycle must always be secured onto a resilient structure. Another precaution to take is to ensure that all your heavy-duty tools are locked away from the place you store your bike at home since such equipment can be quite handy for a burglar.
Ideally, you would want to have some way of monitoring things while at the same time deterring pilferers. When in public, it is best to leave your bike under a surveillance camera or a security monitoring system. Cameras that are able to take in images from wide angles are perfectly suited as you will have the footage you need in case anything transpires.
4. Take Strategic Action
Keep the key details of your bicycle in a safe place in case it goes missing and you need to find it. The details include clear photos of the bicycle, its make, model, and frame number. These are critical in any police investigation. For instance, your frame number is entirely unique and can help identify the machine anywhere it is found. If you haven't done so yet, register your bicycle with the local authorities as a way of adding an extra layer of protection. You also need to ensure you have proper insurance coverage.
(b) Support Networks
Online platforms like Stolen Ride and 529 Garage have communities you can join which include other bike owners, hundreds of law enforcement agencies, bike shops, bike clubs, and educational institutions worldwide. Not only are you able to register your bike, but you have immediate access to a massive support network that can help keep your machine safe and track it in case it ever goes missing. These networks also supply devices like the 529 Shield Kit which deter thieves and alert the owner when a stolen bike is found.
(c) Key Security
You also need to make note of the serial number or other identifiers of the key to your bike lock. In case this is misplaced, you will be able to return to the shop or the manufacturer's website where it is registered and order a new one. If it is possible, make extra copies of your key to avoid a situation where you are stranded, or have to leave your bike behind in a public place because you are unable to find the original key.
(d) GPS Locator
There are plenty of reliable GPS locators that can be attached to your bike which come equipped with an alarm that immediately wards off any potential criminal since the last thing they want drawn toward them is attention. Using a GPS tracking system will definitely save your show, but it will need to be installed where it cannot be spotted easily and especially not on the frame.
Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on March 08, 2021:
Thanks for your comment. Well, experience is also another tutor, albeit slightly more expensive :)
Liz Westwood from UK on February 14, 2021:
This is a helpful article. Boris Johnson might have done well to read it a while ago before his bike was stolen.