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Cambridge police 'caught' on video stealing bikes

Thefts staged to show just how easy it is to lose a badly-locked bike

Police in Cambridge have staged a series of bike thefts on video to demonstrate just how easy it is for a genuine thief to walk off with a bike without being challenged or even reported.

The ‘thefts’ were staged in fairly busy public places in the city, and while the video shows plenty of people close to the ‘thief’ or even watching him, nobody even called 999.

The police have warned cyclists to use good quality locks and to lock their bikes securely to solid objects. And they have appealed to the general public to alert the police of suspicious behaviour.

According to the police, 2,100 bikes per year are stolen in Cambridge. Many are not locked at all, locked with inadequate locks or have a lock round the frame and a wheel but not a solid object. In the video, a ‘thief’ wheels away a bike with a lock around just its rear wheel and in another sequence cuts a lock with a pair of bright orange bolt croppers without being challenged.

Sergeant Andrea Gilbert said: “The CCTV is shocking because the thefts are blatant yet, despite a large number of people witnessing the crime, we didn’t receive a single call.

“Sadly people are too reliant on others to report crime, but we need everyone to play their part.

“If you don’t call police it means those thieves are potentially free to strike again, and next time you could be the victim.

“We are committed to tackling bicycle crime, which is an ongoing issue in the city, but we need the public’s help.”

How to lock your bike

In this 2011 video from the London Cycling Campaign, Barry Mason (who has sadly passed away) shows us some better locking methods than the ones used in Cambridge:'s bike locking Dos and Don'ts

  • Do lock your bike to a secure, immovable object - ideally one designed for the purpose
  • Do make sure the frame and both wheels are inside your lock, or use two locks, or locking wheel skewers on the front wheel
  • Do use a lock, and use it properly even if you are leaving your bike unattended for even a moment
  • Do remove lights and anything else that isn't securely fixed to your bike when you are locking it up
  • Do lock your bike when you get it home, especially if you keep it in a shed or garage
  • Do buy the best lock or locks that you can afford
  • Don't leave your bike unlocked and unattended even if you are just nipping in to shop
  • Don't  lock your bike up in a secluded location where a thief has time to work on your lock undisturbed
  • Don't lock your bike to trees or fences that can be easily cut through, or, posts or signs that it can be easily lifted over
  • Don't leave space in your shackle - that gives space for evil bike stealing tools to do their worst or leave your lock lying flat on the ground for the same reason
  • Don't forget your lock

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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