Bike thefts at train stations have been a thorn in cyclists' side for a while and latest data revealed that it’s getting worse, with thefts up by 39 per cent in 2022 over the previous year. However, at Winchester railway station’s cycle parking, dubbed as the ‘Hub’, things have got so bad that the local cycling campaign has advised people against using bikes to access the station, and in case they do, then most certainly not to use the cycle racks.
According to data published by Direct Line Home Insurance, Winchester train station was amongst the ten station with the highest number of bike thefts, suffering 135 recorded incidents in just 2022. Recently, it has acquired the label of a “hotspot” for bike thieves by the locals.
However, Cycle Winchester is advising cyclists to not use the £400,000 bike Hub, installed in 2016, due to the high risk, while other cyclists are considering giving up cycling as their main mode of transport, reports the Hampshire Chronicle.
A spokesperson for community action group, who wished to stay anonymous, said: “We have known for a while the covered bike racks aka the ‘Hub’ are targeted by thieves.
“South Western Railway (SWR) staff also know it is a hot spot. The police don't, as a rule, investigate bike thefts or review CCTV recordings even when asked.
“At times it has the characteristics of an undercover bike showroom for thieves with little chance of being caught. Our advice is not to use the Hub but if you must park there – take an old bike and use a D-Lock.
“The rate of theft from Winchester station is 2.5 times higher than that at Southampton Station with 46 bikes recorded as being taken in the last 12 months. Without a bike, you can't cycle to the station.”
Cycle Winchester had met with SWR last year to discuss some easy improvements at the station but no proposals have come out of it yet. It also said on its website that in light of the risk involved in parking bikes there, it “would not recommend using the Bike Hub”.
— Cycle Winchester (@CycleWin) August 15, 2023
Meanwhile, there’s a growing fear cyclists who have had their bikes stolen — some even more than once — will be put off from using cycling as their main mode of transport and switch to driving.
Most people regularly get the train in Winchester, for work or leisure, but they said that they were hesitant to use the bike hub or to leave their bike locked up at the station.
Ben Dornan from Fulflood has seen two of his bikes stolen, each worth around £800, and said that he’s going to cycle a “lot less” now.
His last bike was taken from the station, in front of the CCTV cameras, last month. Dornan said he was even willing to watch through the CCTV videos himself after the police said that he’d been parked there too long (around 16 and a half hours) for them to review the footage.
Dornan said: “When my bike was stolen there were multiple broken bike locks in the hub and a good friend of mine had there’s taken the same day from the same place.
“I think thieves have sheared through the bars that people lock their bikes to so when people lock up their bikes, the chain just comes off. It’s clearly unsafe and people are regularly sweeping through and taking bikes. It’s a numbers game for them and they’re winning.
“It’s incensed because my bike was in the bike shed, locked up with a strong chain and in front of the CCTV. I will never leave my bike there again. When I cycle to the leisure centre there are also cameras but that is no deterrent to these people.
He continued: “I’m going to cycle a lot less which is a real shame because it’s my principal mode of transport. The issue is absolutely out of hand and completely out of control. It’s not just bikes being stolen from public places but locked garages too.
“Winchester has a lot of people who cycle and with expensive bikes. It’s a real goldmine for these gangs. Loads of people have now turned off cycling which is so regressive.
“We need a sting operation to take all the thieves out. The only people who are recovering their bikes are cyclists who track them down themselves.”
Matt Dodds, an engineer from Eastleigh said: “There is not enough security. It’s too easy to go through any of the available bike locks. I’ve got a £45 bike lock. It will take 20 seconds to get through with the battery-powered angle binder. It’s not a priority crime (for the police) so we’re left to go and try and find our own bikes.”
In August, Cycling UK had warned that the “scourge” of bike theft will continue until criminals “believe there is a genuine risk of getting caught”, after figures published by Sussex Police revealed that only one in a hundred reported thefts over the past year resulted in a prosecution or court summons.
And earlier this year, Liberal Democrats published a staggering statistic that showed that almost 90 per cent of bicycle thefts reported to the police were closed without a suspect even being identified.
A spokesperson for British Transport Police said: “Bike theft is an issue we take very seriously and we are always working and adapting strategies to tackle it.
“We regularly patrol Winchester station and also hold bike marking drop-in sessions where we offer free security marking and give crime prevention tips and advice.”
An SWR spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to any customers who have experienced cycle theft at the station. We are working closely with the British Transport Police who continue to carry out operations at the station, and host cycle surgeries, in which they provide crime prevention advice and cycle marking.
“The British Transport Police also have information on its website about how to protect cycles. We will work together to look at other possible measures to prevent cycle theft and to help customers keep their cycles safe.”
Winchester MP Steve Brine said he had been approached by several people who had bikes stolen from the city.
He said: “A number of constituents have contacted me about bike thefts in the city and I share their concern as one of them, especially around the station bike hub which I campaigned for and opened myself a number of years ago.
“We want Winchester to be even more a cycling city than it is today and confidence is key to that. I am pressing our excellent new chief inspector to bring her new community policing resources to bear here and to SWR who has a clear responsibility on behalf of their customers to nip this in the bud.”
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.