In April, we published an article that highlighted the spate of bike thefts at Winchester Sports and Leisure Centre (WSLC) and also in Winchester more generally. Today we bring you an update to that story.
Since April there have been a number of developments:
- Winchester City Council have provided four lockable (bring your own padlock) bike boxes and additional Sheffield stands at WSLC. These are more or less in front of the centre entrance and so have a better level of ‘Natural Surveillance’ than with the existing bike racks. WCC deserves credit here for a quick response. These racks are proving quite popular but we suspect that riders who are still using the original racks may not be aware of the additional racks or indeed the reason the racks have been provided – some warning signs could be useful.
- The police, having been prompted to investigate the thefts, have taken active steps including visible patrolling and covert policing in the area. An arrest was made in May (see article in Hampshire Chronicle) and a suspect has been charged with several offences.
- The police have hosted a couple of events at WSLC, where they have offered security-marking of bikes.
It’s too early to tell which of these actions has been most effective but thefts from WSLC have been much reduced. However bikes were taken from WSLC in June and again in July – we don’t know which bike racks were targeted.
The number of thefts remain constant across the rest of Winchester – albeit at a higher level than last year (it was averaging 5 thefts a month early last year – now 8-9 a month). Excluding thefts from the station and WSLC there were 46 bike stolen in the rest of Winchester between January and June this year. After a drop in June numbers have risen – it is still too early to determine any real trends. These figures come from the police data – the actual numbers are likely to be much higher.
The level of thefts at WSLC has highlighted that “quality bike parking” includes good security such as having racks in areas of “Natural Surveillance” i.e. high footfall. CCTV is not a substitute for having bike parking in visible locations with a decent footfall. A recent meeting of the Winchester Town Forum included proposals for additional parking in Winchester. Locations chosen for these need to reflect the need for effective security. There is determination from WCC to add parking in the near future. Councillors at the meeting understood that parking should not be out of sight; we now need to see this is delivered in practice.
Thefts from the Railway Station
Although the numbers of thefts have dropped at the Railway station they are still high, between 1 and 2 a week. Network Rail seems to be relying on policing actions to address this. The 9 thefts in April made Winchester equal top in the UK rankings for station bike theft for that month. Southampton Station has a much lower number of thefts. 66 thefts last year is £52,000 worth of bikes (£800 is average price of stolen bike).
It seems obvious that the existing provision at the station is not working if only measured by the high level of theft.
More bikes are parked in front of the station than in the hub and secure parking – 22 bikes were parked on a recent weekday visit with 13 of those parked at the front of the station. There is very little use of the “Secure Parking Compound” (why?) and the “Bike Parking Hub” (again why?). We have heard that it’s not possible to get new keys to the secure parking because previous users haven’t returned them. Surely Network Rail could easily address this issue if it is true, just issuing more tokens would be a start? One senses that Network Rail thinks that bike security is not their problem.
The overall number of bikes parked at the station seems quite low. Maybe this low number reflects the lower level of commuting rather than the reluctance to leave a bike at the station.
One potential improvement to bike parking could be to convert the current secure parking into general parking and make it accessible only from the station platform. Bikes (and thieves) would then have to pass through the barriers. This is the arrangement at Southampton Central.
There is very little information available on the use of the station by cyclists and details of bike theft. We’d like to hear from cyclists who use (or have used) the station as well as those who have had a bike taken from the station. Please tell us about your experiences or any suggestions: