For years, one of the first pieces of advice given to any cyclist who has their bike stolen in London has been “Get yourself down to Brick Lane sharpish and look for it there.” Now, however, a police clampdown on sales of stolen bikes there appears to be deterring thieves from using the market as a place to dispose of hot property.
According to the Evening Standard, there have been consistent falls in recent months in the number of bikes being stolen in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, where the market is located, from 179 in August to 151 in September, 133 in October and 103 during November.
That figure from August represented a whopping 61% rise on the same month in 2009, however, suggesting that there is a lot of work still to be done in reducing levels of bike theft.
In all, 23,178 bikes were stolen in London as a whole last year, and the Metropolitan Police, its efforts spearheaded by the Police Cycle Task Force launched earlier this year, is hoping for a 3% reduction in that figure during 2010.
Referring to Brick Lane, Inspector Graham Horwood of the Police Cycle Task Force said: “The number of people offering stolen bikes for sale has gone down dramatically.”
However, perils remain for cyclists who hot-foot it down to the market in the hopes of being reunited with their pride and joy, with Gary Aspey, who operates a bike repair stall there, telling the Standard of a woman who confronted a “trader” whom she accused of having stolen her bike being knifed in the stomach.
Another legitimate cycle trader on the market, Derek Clifford, who together with Keith Slaughter runs Superbike commented: “It's a good market but over the course of the years it's been given a bad name. Now there are police here every week.”
Although the problem may be diminishing at Brick Lane, there are concerns that the trade is simply moving elsewhere, with the Standard reporting that stolen bikes are now commonly found on sale at the Columbia Road and Broadway markets in neighbouring Hackney.
Here, the mobility of the thieves and those who sell the bikes is potentially the most difficult issue for the police to combat. A bike stolen in the East End can find its way to Brick Lane or other markets within minutes, often being sold quickly on a street corner for a fraction of their true value to those who aren't bothered in asking too many questions about its provenance.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.