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“So many people are put off cycling by the threat of having their bike stolen”: Bike theft victims call for more secure cycle hangars as demand soars

Campaigners have placed 1,000 missing bike posters around London as new analysis reveals demand for secure storage has increased by a fifth – but some local authorities still show no signs of installing hangars

Cycling campaigners and victims of bike theft in London – where around 50 bikes a day are reported stolen – have put 1,000 missing bike posters, known as ‘lamppost laments’, across the capital as part of a call for the installation of more cycle hangars, as recent analysis reveals that the demand for secure bike storage has risen by almost a fifth over the past 18 months.

Newly published research, conduced by transport consultancy Steer on behalf of the Clean Cities Campaign, a European coalition of organisations encouraging cities to transition to zero-emission mobility by 2030, has found that 8,500 bike storage spaces have been installed in London since spring last year, when the organisation launched its ‘This is Awkward’ campaign highlighting the cumbersome and often strange places cyclists in London are forced to store their bikes.

However, despite this increase, the waiting list for bike storage spaces in London has nevertheless expanded, with 8,700 more cyclists waiting for spots compared to last year, a 17 percent rise.

Clean Cities Campaign - awkward bike storage

> Sick of the ‘cycling salsa’? Campaign encourages cyclists to share the awkward places they store their bikes

Based on the current plans of local authorities across the capital, it is estimated that London’s total cycle storage provision will nearly double to 70,000 by May 2026.

But, despite this investment, Clean Cities says at least 35,000 Londoners across 21 boroughs will still be on a waiting list for a bike space by 2026 – with most of them subject to a postcode lottery when it comes to both provision and the cost of a hangar spot.

Lambeth, for example, has committed to ending their waiting list with a new two-year supply contract for cycle hangars, some of which will be adapted to increase accessibility, and reducing the cost of spaces so that it is cheaper for a family of four to use a cycle hangar (£120 for four bikes at £30 each) than to park a car (starting at £120.21 for an electric car).

However, on the other hand, Hammersmith and Fulham and Tower Hamlets (boasting a combined waiting list of over 5,600 cyclists), along with Bexley, Harrow, and Hillingdon are yet to install any secure bike parking or storage at all, despite around a third of the residents of the latter three boroughs living in flats or apartments.

Meanwhile, in Islington, the cost of an annual space in an on-street secure cycle hangar (£107.25) is double that of the London average (£54), while the report also shows that it is cheaper to park an electric car than to rent a single space in a cycle hangar in most London boroughs.

> £100 to rent a bike hangar...but £30 to park your car?

A recent Freedom of Information request also found that Transport for London – who have reported that more than half of Londoners see the lack of cycle parking as a key deterrent to cycling – has funded just 1,000 spaces since 2021, despite a commitment by mayor Sadiq Khan to increase the number of secure bike hangars.

Launching their new campaign, Clean Cities says the introduction of more secure bike hangars has demonstrated a clear, positive improvement in a city where 20,000 bikes are reported stolen each year, with the actual figure of stolen bikes, including those not reported to the police, likely to be even higher.

“I cycled before I got a bike hangar space, but due to poor infrastructure to store my bike, I had my bike stolen from the premises,” Alekhya, a Lambeth-based victim of cycle theft, told the campaign.

“With the bike hangar I don’t have to worry about parking my bike near my home. It is definitely more secure and I find it safe and easy to use.”

Clean Cities Stolen Dreams bike storage campaign

> “Bike theft scourge will continue until there’s a genuine risk criminals might get caught,” warns Cycling UK, as police figures reveal only one in a hundred thefts lead to prosecution

Oliver Lord, the head of the UK’s Clean Cities Campaign, also argued that better cycle storage provision is key to enticing more people to ride bikes in the city.

“If our city leaders want to help Londoners jump on a bike and use their car less then they have to make it as easy as possible, including providing somewhere safe to store it,” he said.

“We are seeing a burgeoning demand for secure cycle storage across the capital that far exceeds supply and Londoners won’t be surprised to learn that getting hold of a secure cycle space near their home is very dependent on the borough in which they live.

“So many Londoners want to cycle but are put off by the threat that their bikes will be stolen or they simply don’t have the space inside their homes.

“A £35 million fund from the Mayor of London would boost the progress being made and go a long way to ending the long wait for thousands of Londoners and the unfair distribution of secure cycle storage”.

> "Consider taking different routes home": Police warning to cyclists that thieves following riders to steal bikes later

Richard Cantle, founder of grassroots group Stolen Ride, which supports victims of bike theft, added: “Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a house with a garage, secure metal garden shed, or have a secure monitored cycle hub on their doorstep.

“In fact, according to the 2021 Census, 54 percent of Londoners do not live in houses. If there is no provision for cycle parking at their residence, or very nearby, then they are stuck without cycle hangars. They have to either risk their bike being locked outside, struggle with a bike inside, or not cycle at all.

“Stolen Ride supports this campaign and urges all London boroughs (and beyond) to acknowledge immediate and future cycle parking needs, alongside the overall benefits of cycling, by increasing the number of end-to-end secure cycle parking solutions.

“Cycle hangar space fees should be strongly subsidised where needed and cycle hangar planning [should] factor in the costs to families, the mixed cost structures across London boroughs, accessibility and non-standard cycles.”

Amber Dowell, a four-time victim of bike theft in Hackney, also noted that “if London wants to ease pressure on public transport, reduce air pollution, and help people stay fit and healthy, we desperately need more secure bike parking. We need it on residential streets and estates, but also to support community centres and businesses.”

The Inch bike theft via Facebook.PNG

As Clean Cities calls on London’s local authorities to provide more secure cycle storage, Britain’s bike theft scourge appears to show no signs of abating, as just last month police in Bristol issued a warning that bike thieves may be following cyclists home to find out where they live, returning later to steal items, and asked riders to “consider taking different routes home”.

Almost 90 percent of bike thefts reported to the police in England and Wales between July 2021 and June 2022 closed without a suspect being identified, while a YouGov survey found that more than three quarters of British people do not expect the police to bother investigating bike thefts.

Concerns about the increasingly brazen tactics used by thieves to target cyclists are nothing new, with multiple incidents being reported on this website of criminals using tools such as angle grinders to cut through locks in broad daylight in busy locations, as well as the concerningly frequent reports of violent bikejackings.

Last month alone we shared shocking footage from the West Midlands which showed masked men attempting to steal a cyclist’s bike after forcing him off the road with an SUV, and reported on an incident in Wolverhampton which saw a thief attempt to cut through a lock outside Asda, seemingly unconcerned by the bystander withdrawing cash metres away.

And in September, a man was convicted of a bike theft, but only after the mother of the victim held a three-day protest outside the offender’s house amid clear CCTV evidence and police inaction.

Drivers crashes into London bike hangar (Rendel Harris)

> “Is there anything that can’t be blamed on cyclists?” Baby hospitalised after motorist crashes into bike hangar – and locals blame the hangar

However, the panacea offered by Clean Cities for this widespread bike theft problem – cycle hangars – has also not been without controversy in recent months, with motorists in London, Bath, and Brighton and Hove complaining over the past year that the storage units are eyesores, take up parking spaces for drivers, and cause motorists to crash into them.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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14 comments

Avatar
Jim66 | 3 months ago
1 like

It is worth mentioning that a number of secure store units (such as Spokesafe & others) have now started to appear in the UK. These are very useful when parking a bike in a town or city centre. I know it is an 'old cherry' but, it is also worth investing in a modern 'diamond rated' lock. Although very expensive, they can significantly delay an angle grinder attack. 

Avatar
LordSandwich replied to Jim66 | 3 months ago
2 likes

If I did that, my lock would be worth more than my bike! 😂

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Sriracha | 3 months ago
4 likes

And of course every stolen ebike is another "incompatible charger" conflagration in the making.

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Hirsute | 3 months ago
3 likes

Last night I dreamt I came out of a supermarket to find just the frame of my bike left.
Must have been a premonition!

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bigwheeler88 | 3 months ago
0 likes

Secure storage isn't going to deter the scumbags.

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Adam Sutton replied to bigwheeler88 | 3 months ago
2 likes

At the train station I use there is a secure lockup you can pay £50 a year to use. However it is a caged area that you can see into.

A few months back I had an incident where while I and another guy were in there sorting our bikes a bunch of chavs were eyeing up a scooter in there. There is only one exit, and the other guy had left leaving me there. I was preparing for something to happen as I came out, but luckily they other guy had the same suspicions I did and before going had gone to the BTP who were luckily at the station who came over, moved them on and suggested I stick with them for a while.

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brooksby | 3 months ago
5 likes

The attitude of the police and the authorities, though, seems to be just "Well, it was only a bicycle...".

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 3 months ago
10 likes

Well it's consistent... if you get close-passed, it's "well, they didn't hit you" (you're "only a witness").  If you get hit, it's "well, it was only an injury.  Lucky escape, eh? (You had your lights, hi vis and helmet on, right?*)".  If you get killed, it's "Well, it's sad, but it was only a cyclist (taking their chances, weren't they, by riding on the road.  Tragic but they probably swerved / just fell off)"

*

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Sriracha replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
8 likes

I think when they get killed (after all the close passes, near misses, and hits) it's a case of, "if only it was preventable, but - sadly - what can you do?"

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wtjs replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
6 likes

Well it's consistent... if you get close-passed, it's "well, they didn't hit you" (you're "only a witness")

This entire post is exactly correct- it's how Lancashire Constabulary used to approach it before they hit on The Other Other Operation, where they just ignore every offence which has anything to do with offences against cyclists

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RoubaixCube | 3 months ago
0 likes

£35 million?? TFL doesnt have any money left to give. Sadiq has run TFL into the ground through incompetence and mismanagement.

We are going to be waiting a long time before Londoners see any of that money.

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Rendel Harris replied to RoubaixCube | 3 months ago
18 likes
RoubaixCube wrote:

£35 million?? TFL doesnt have any money left to give. Sadiq has run TFL into the ground through incompetence and mismanagement.

How can I put this politely? Bollocks. Boris Johnson left TfL £9 billion in debt, with £3 billion more coming from the delay in opening the Elizabeth Line which was caused by events under his watch. Before leaving office he agreed with the Chancellor that TfL's operating grant from the government would be phased out and replaced by an increased share of the business rate, but that share has never matched the amount of direct grant. During the pandemic TfL lost 95% of its fare revenue, for obvious reasons, causing a revenue loss of around £6 billion, and passenger numbers are still 10% down on pre-pandemic levels with resultant ongoing loss of income. Adding all of these things together TfL should now be at least £19 billion in debt, in fact it is £15 billion in debt and Khan's administration has even managed to pay back around £500 million of the debt this year, resulting in the organisation's credit rating being upgraded. Far from running TfL into the ground Khan has done a miraculous job of keeping it running considering the debts with which Johnson encumbered it, the pandemic losses and the continued and politically-motivated funding cuts from central government.

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OldRidgeback replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
3 likes

Exactly this - Khan had actually settled 75% of the debt Johnson had saddled TfL with and then came Covid, which wiped out TfL's income due to the collapse in income as people had to stay at home. It does get up my nose when people repeat the Tory lies about Khan, without bothering to check why TfL has had its financial issues and also, who caused them in the first place.

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hawkinspeter replied to OldRidgeback | 3 months ago
0 likes
OldRidgeback wrote:

Exactly this - Khan had actually settled 75% of the debt Johnson had saddled TfL with and then came Covid, which wiped out TfL's income due to the collapse in income as people had to stay at home. It does get up my nose when people repeat the Tory lies about Khan, without bothering to check why TfL has had its financial issues and also, who caused them in the first place.

Well, if Tories didn't lie, they'd have nothing to say…

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