74,421 bike thefts were reported to England and Wales police between July 2021 and June 2022.
That means that a bike was stolen every 7 minutes in England and Wales in 2022. And don’t forget, this is reported cases; the actual number of bike thefts would have been at least double that. Winchester is by no means immune to this problem. Many unhappy residents have told us about theft of their bikes, with the railway station and Sport & Leisure Park being particular hot spots. In this article we give you some information that might prevent theft of your bike, or help deal with the consequences if you are unfortunate enough to have yours stolen.
Three factors determine the risk that your bike is stolen:
- Location: this can be specific locations or more generally a city or area. Some locations, areas or cities will be known theft hotspots and others could be relatively safer. University cities (Oxford, Cambridge etc) and London have the worst rates; Chichester also is high on the list. Bike parking at the railway station and sports centre are known to be targeted in Winchester. This information comes from the crime map for central Winchester which provides the location by month for reported bike theft. Winchester railway station is not included in this map but separate figures are available on the British Transport Police website.
- Attractiveness of the bike: is it worth stealing either to sell complete or as components? Bike thieves are professionals and know what they are looking for and there will be markets for e-bikes, high end bikes and more ordinary bikes.
- Length of time left parked: More than an hour increases the risk.
So if you leave an attractive bike in a theft hotspot for a long period of time you’ll going to need a really decent lock. On the other hand if your unattractive (old?) bike is left in a secure location for a short period of time the risk is much lower.
Get a good lock
We will never stop a well equipped and determined thief from taking our bikes. But we can make it more difficult:
- Invest in a good lock as a deterrent (although this may only slow professional thieves or divert them to an easier target). Locks do not last forever; replace them when tired.
- The organisation, Sold Secure tests and categorises bike locks, and is widely endorsed by insurance companies. Diamond-rated locks “provide the highest level of security … aimed at very high value bicycles and e-bikes”. Gold rated locks “offer the next highest level of security, aimed at mid-to-high value bicycles”.
- Lock manufacturer Hiplock has an explanation of the different standards here.
We recommend that you should use a Sold Secure “Gold” or “Diamond” standard lock unless you consider the theft risk to be low.
These are not expensive, for example Yale makes Gold rated locks from £30 and a Diamond rated one for £35. An online search will provide many other options. These are prices for D-Locks (Shackle locks). Most D-locks will come with their own clamp, which you can then attach to your bike frame.
Alternative types of locks (such as chains and padlocks) are generally heavier or more expensive than D-locks but are also good options.
You should choose a lock that is large (long) enough to lock to the bike stands you use; compact D-locks may be hard to use. An additional cable lock allows wheels to secured and also useful when a D-lock is not compatible with the parking arrangements. Cable locks generally have a lower rating and should only be considered as supplementary security.
Examples of locks and guidance can be found on the Best Bike Lock website.
Now you’ve got yourself a good lock, what other precautions should you take?
- Lock your bike to something solid in well-lit areas preferably with a high footfall and CCTV (but don’t really too heavily on the presence of CCTV; thieves can easily hide their identity from low-quality CCTV images).
- Lock the frame and both wheels to the stand. Make the lock and cycle hard to manoeuvre by securing the cycle as close as possible to the rack. Make sure locks cannot come into contact with the ground. Cycling UK has a more complete guide on how to lock your bike.
- Secure your bike when it’s at home. Thefts from sheds and garages are quite common.
- If your e-bike has a removable computer, remove it when not in use.
- Register you bike with BikeRegister; it’s free although there is a fee if you want a sticker for the bike. (Or look out for one of Winchester City Council & Hampshire Police’s free bike marking events.) This will improve the chances of recovering a bike. Not too effective if the bike has been stolen for its components.
- Photograph your bike, highlighting any features that would help identify it such as paint scratches.
- Report thefts (and attempted thefts) to the police; more reports might trigger some action.
- Report suspicious activities – especially around bike racks.
Reporting bike thefts
If you are unfortunate enough to have your bike stolen, how should you respond?
Firstly, you should report your theft to the police on 101 or online. You’ll need to do this to claim on insurance and more reports can trigger wider action.
Do your own detective work. Ask for CCTV recordings to be reviewed (if there is coverage); it is unlikely the police will do this. You will need to work out whom to contact for CCTV coverage. If the theft took place in a public place around town, it is likely to be Winchester City Council. Their website provides information on how a member of the public can request CCTV review. Note that the list of cameras on this website is a couple of years old, and the online application is friendlier than the paper form.
On the other hand, if the theft took place on private property, such as the hospital, university, or railway station, then you’ll need to request CCTV footage from the relevant property owner.
Thefts from Winchester Sport and Leisure Centre
In addition to reporting your theft to the police you may also report the theft to WSLC reception and ask them to review the CCTV recording; this review probably won’t be done unless you ask. WSLC will pass evidence to police. The cameras covering the parking at WSLC are run by Winchester City Council but WSLC have access to them.
Thefts from Winchester Railway Station
Thefts should be reported to the British Transport Police (101 or online) and the station staff should be able to give advice too. You can ask that the CCTV recordings to be reviewed; however they may be reluctant to review many hours of recordings (we don’t really understand this as checking a long period of time should not be onerous using the right algorithm). This is unfortunate as most users are going to leave their bikes for many hours, but it’s worth a go and probably won’t happen unless you ask.