It's a depressing start to the new year as new analysis of crime statistics in this Guardian article published yesterday reveals that almost 90% of all bicycle theft cases reported to police over the past year were closed without a suspect even being identified, and just 1.7% resulted in someone being charged. These numbers, gathered from a 12-month period in which 74,421 bike thefts were reported to police, show that no suspect was identified in 66,769 of the cases and only 1,239 resulted in a charge or summons. This is a wake-up call that the issue of bicycle theft, which frustrates and worries cyclists every day, needs to be addressed.
Who is to blame for this lack of progress in fighting bicycle theft?
Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dems’ home affairs spokesperson, who led the analysis, concluded that local police forces are overstretched and underfunded, and therefore "simply cannot do their jobs properly without the funding and officers needed to investigate crimes like this properly." While it is true that funding to fight bicycle crime is necessary, it is oversimplifying the issue to say that giving policing forces the resources to investigate bicycle crime will solve the problem.
So, whose responsibility is it to ensure the security of bicycles?
There is a common misconception that it is solely the responsibility of the cyclist to take care of their own bicycle security. Cyclists are often told to buy better locks, ideally two of them, to protect their bikes.
However, cities and space owners also have a role to play in creating a safe environment for cyclists. Simply providing proper bicycle racks and CCTV is not enough. If cities and space owners are serious about promoting cycling and active travel, they need to do much more to prevent bike crime from occurring in the first place.
An even more important solution is to take a proactive approach to bike security. This could involve investing in innovation to prevent bike theft before it happens, rather than just reacting to it after the fact. We are fortunate to see that Tel Aviv took a proactive approach and worked with EiT Urban Mobility (European Commission) to put out a call for innovation to address the problem of bicycle theft. MOSA was lucky enough to win the competition and had the valuable opportunity to work with a tier one city to run a trial and learn from the Tel Aviv municipality to iterate our solutions. The UK is known for its innovation, and the government and cities should really learn how to work with startups to address the serious issue of bicycle crime more effectively.
In the UK, we are glad to see companies like Spokesafe and Bike-drop working on providing secure paid bike parking solutions. MOSA is taking a different approach to helping cities and space owners provide intelligent and secure parking by converting their standard racks with our retrofittable smart locks. In Europe, we also see startups like Bikeep and Vadebike providing intelligent parking rack solutions. Innovations are already happening in this space, and cities should open up more funding and opportunities for collaboration with startups.
When parking infrastructure becomes secure, and ideally smart, the potential is limitless. MOSA, in particular, is planning to work on a bicycle crime heat map, using data collected from our smart lock sensors to help cities optimize their resources to fight bicycle crime at the right place and at the right time.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of cities and space owners to provide secure parking for cyclists. If they want more people to take up cycling, they need to invest in innovation and provide secure parking options, ideally for free. It's time for a change in mindset: bike parking security should not be the responsibility of the individual cyclist.