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January 03, 2017 5 min read

Bicycle theft is a common problem in the UK, with hundreds of thousands of bikes stolen each year. For thieves, it is a low risk, high reward opportunity, and with more people cycling these days, it means there are more bicycles in circulation for criminals to target.

January is a particularly busy time with new bikes and new year resolutions resulting in more cyclists on the roads. If properly maintained, a bike will give you enjoyment for years to come. And if you adhere to some simple security measures, you can ensure it stays out of the wrong hands and in your possession.

According to statistics, approximately 376,000 bikes are stolen each year in the UK - roughly one every 90 seconds - with more than half of all thefts occurring in and around the home. In Northern Ireland, three bikes are reported stolen every day. During the financial year of 2014-15 there were 966 bicycles reported stolen to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The statistics are even more alarming when you consider that it is estimated that five in six bike thefts go unreported, with the potential value of bikes stolen during 2014-15 believed to be almost £1.4m.

Cyclists want to improve their road safety, and they also want to deter thieves. See.Sense listened to these concerns when we were developing our intelligent and connected ICON bike light. The ICON’s smartphone App has an early theft alarm in case anyone tries to steal your bike. It will send an alert to your phone if someone moves or tampers with your bicycle while you’re sitting in your favourite cafe. It works within a range of up to 100 metres using a Bluetooth Smart connection to your phone, giving you some peace of mind if you ever leave your bike unattended.

Bike Theft stats

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has also been working alongside cycling groups to combat the problem, as PSNI Sergeant Pete Cunningham explained: “While bicycle thefts across Belfast increased up to 2013/14, there has been a steady decline since. Police have been working alongside a number of local cycling clubs and associations to highlight the issue of cycle theft and safety. We have also been offering cyclists the opportunity to have their bikes security marked and registered. Each bike is marked with its own unique reference number which the bike owner then uses to register with the BikeRegister website.

“The register entry also allows a picture of the bike to be uploaded alongside details of the bike. The security marking and registration is a good visible deterrent to bike thieves. They know if they are caught in possession of a registered bike, the rightful owner can be traced and they will be arrested. For more information on this or any other crime prevention measure, please call your local Crime Prevention Officer on the non-emergency number 101."

Bicycles are easy targets for criminals, but there are ways to help prevent your cherished property going missing. By taking these simple steps to deter thieves, it will hopefully ensure you get to enjoy riding your bike for years to come.

1. Get a decent lock

Why spend thousands of pounds on a new bike and then protect it with a cheap, basic lock? Bike thieves like to operate quickly to reduce the chances of being caught, and a robust lock will make their job far more difficult. With a good lock, chances are a thief will abandon his or her attempt to steal your bike, or they won’t even try at all. Look for a lock with a gold ‘Sold Secure’ rating. Other options are D-Locks and thick, sturdy chain locks. Try to avoid cable locks and flex cable as they are less robust. Whatever you do, ALWAYS LOCK YOUR BIKE. An opportunistic thief who spies an unlocked bike outside a shop will pounce.

2. Be careful where you leave your bike unattended

Make sure you park your bike in a well-lit area where it can easily be seen by passers by. Don’t leave it in an isolated spot where thieves can operate under a blanket of darkness. And don’t park your bike in the same place every time. Thieves watch where expensive bikes are regularly parked before making their move.

3. Attach your bike to something secure

A simple tip but one that many cyclists get wrong. Always make sure you lock your bike to something that can’t be moved, lifted or easily broken. Lock both wheels and the frame of your bike to a cycle stand or other immovable object. And remember, your bike is only as secure as what you are attaching it to.

4. Remove any accessories

Always try to remove any accessories if you are leaving your bike unattended. Whether stopping at a coffee stop or parking your bike at work. Removing accessories such as your lights, bike computer and any other easily removable accessories will reduce the risk of theft.

5. Home comforts

More than half of all bike thefts happen in or around the home, so it makes sense to keep your property as secure as possible. Store your bike in a locked shed or garage and try and keep it out of view. Also try and secure it to an immovable object. Don’t leave it sitting outside at night, or even during the day. Thieves can strike at any time so remain vigilant.

6. Mark your bike

You can mark your bike with a unique code, so that if it is stolen the police can trace it back to you. BikeRegister is a police-approved marking scheme. Every police force in the United Kingdom uses the BikeRegister database to search for stolen and recovered bikes. Over 600,000 bikes are logged on this scheme. If you are marking your bicycle yourself, ensure the security mark is clearly visible - this will hopefully deter thieves. You can also apply a sticker to your bike as another way of deterring criminals.

7. Get insurance

Bicycles can be very expensive pieces of kit, so it makes sense to insure your two-wheeled pride and joy. Check whether your home contents insurance covers your bike, and make sure it covers you for thefts outside the home. In some cases you may have to insure your bike separately. If it is very valuable, for example.

8. Report any theft

A staggering 5 out of six bike thefts go unreported. If your bicycle is stolen then make sure and notify the police. An increasing number of bikes are being recovered and returned to their rightful owners when they are reported stolen. Logging a theft is simple to do with your local police, and it could prove worthwhile if you get your bike back again.