Bicycle theft in London can feel like an epidemic at times. Most of us know someone who has had a bike stolen, and a fear of theft is often a reason non-cyclists gives for their reluctance to travel by bike. Like a lot of these things, the perception is probably worse than the reality.
To help keep our own bikes safe and to improve the advice we give to our customers, we are always looking out for trends in our customer claims along with publicly available police data. Using this police data, we have created a map of London bicycle thefts.
Our interactive bicycle theft heat map plots the bike thefts in London from January to August 2018 – a total of 13,686 pieces of data. While this might sound like an alarmingly high number for just eight months, remember that in 2016, Londoners made 730,000 bicycle journeys per day.
(n.b. Yellow Jersey don’t charge extra based on post code, so if you live in the middle of a bright red spot, there’s no need to worry about paying more.)
For the best experience, view on a computer or tablet and expand the map by clicking the icon in the bottom right hand corner.
There is a lot of data on the map, so do be patient if it takes a couple of seconds to load!
By zooming out and taking in London as a whole, you can start to get an idea of the sort of areas bike thieves tend to target.
Unsurprisingly, Central London areas such as Westminster and Camden shine yellow and red, primarily because this is where so many of us travel to for work. A bit more unusual however, is the very bright red spot in the bottom right hand corner around East Mosley.
It turns out that this red spot sits exactly on top of the Kingston University campus, which appears to be a hot spot for bicycle crime. We have seen a few bicycle thefts from university campuses in the past so it’s always worth making sure that you are extra careful in these areas.
As you zoom in and pan around the map, you’ll start to notice similar red spots showing up among the otherwise fairly even distribution.
Areas such as train stations, libraries and gyms are common hot spots
It’s easiest to spot trouble spots when looking at an area you are familiar with. Areas such as train station car parks and outside of gyms and libraries are persistent offenders, but you’ll also begin to find hot-spots with seemingly little connecting them. If you are regularly leaving your bike somewhere that looks like a trouble spot, it might be worth beefing up your security, or looking for somewhere new to leave your bike.
What data does the heat map show?
The map displays every instance of bicycle theft with a valid GPS location, reported by the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police, and British Transport Police, from January to August 2018. The data was downloaded from data.police.uk.
Obviously, we can only work with the available data and not every theft or case of bike stripping is reported to the police, so the true, higher figure is unknown.
How do I read the map?
Each instance of a bicycle theft in London is represented by a blue dot. Where multiple blue dots are in close proximity to each other, they will turn yellow then red to indicate the higher density. Zooming in and out will let you see general trends or find localised hotspots.
In areas where there are particularly high instances of theft (such as outside railway stations), the data assigns multiple bicycle thefts with the exact same gps coordinates. To make these thefts a bit easier to see, bicycle thefts that have the exact same gps coordinates have been stacked on top of each other. These look like little red lines on the map until you zoom right in, at which point the line turns into a stack of dots. The bottom dot signifies where the thefts occurred, and the number of dots represents the number of thefts.
What about bicycle theft outside of London?
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. Our staff are all London or Surrey based so that seemed the best place to start, but we have bicycle theft data for Manchester (Greater Manchester Police), Birmingham (West Midlands Police) and Cardiff (South Wales Police). There is a fair bit of work required to get the data into a heatmap, but if there is interest, we are keen to cover those areas too. Police Scotland aren’t divided into counties and cities in the same way the rest of the UK is, and don’t share their stats via data.police.uk. While we are keen to explore bicycle theft in Scotland, it will take a little more time.
What can I do to protect my bike against theft?
Luckily, only a small proportion of our bicycle insurance claims are for bike theft, and only a minority of our customers will ever need to make a claim. A great place to start is with our detailed locking guide.
We spoke to Superintendent Mark Cleland of the British Transport Police for his advice. Mark suggests making use of the BikeRegister database, which helps to act as a deterrent for theft as well as potentially recovering stolen bikes. If you decide to buy a bike from an individual or online, such as Gumtree or Facebook, ask for proof of ownership and always check the frame number against the BikeRegister BikeChecker.
He also advises cyclists to take some good quality photos of your bike including any distinctive components or markings. These are very useful when it comes to identifying found bikes.
Finally, Mark reminded us: “If you have any information about bicycle thieves or places where stolen bicycles are being sold, don’t hesitate to act on it. Let Crimestoppers know on 0800 555 111 or contact your local police, we’ll do the rest.”
How can Stolen Ride help?
Stolen Ride provides a community-focused solution to bicycle theft. Growing quickly, Stolen Ride is on a mission to tackle all aspects, from theft prevention to stolen bike recovery.
The website is home to London’s community of cyclists looking out for stolen bikes. If a bike is stolen in London, the owner can tweet it to @StolenRide (or tag @StolenRide on Instagram) and the community will then actively look out for the bike on the streets and online. If there is a sighting, the owner will be updated who can then get the police involved to aid the recovery. Lots of people have been happily reunited with their bikes thanks to Stolen Ride so it is definitely worth getting involved should you unfortunate enough to be the victim.
Stolen Ride is only focused on the London cycling community at present, but has plans to expand.