Countryside riders targeted by bike thieves amid record lows in police detection rates
Cyclists taking rides into the countryside are being mugged for their high-end bikes by crime gangs exploiting historic lows in police detection rates, cycling chiefs have warned.
Cycling UK, one of the biggest charities, said there was increasing evidence of criminals targeting cyclists travelling out of London to Kent and the Surrey Hills and who may have unwittingly given away their plans on Strava, the app used by riders to map routes and times.
Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said the phenomenon was “on the radar” of the three police forces - the Met, Kent and Surrey - after a series of incidents where cyclists have been attacked for their bikes.
Alex Richardson, a 32 year old professional cyclist, was robbed of his bike at knifepoint by four masked attackers in London’s Richmond Park. He called it a “shocking experience” and urged other cyclists to be careful.
In June, Jennifer George, a two-time Scottish road race champion, revealed how she had been attacked twice by men on motorbikes while riding alone near Oxted in Surrey.
It followed multiple reports of a moped gang seemingly targeting lone female cyclists after a rider was held down and had their bike stolen during an attack near Warlingham in Surrey in April.
“It is possibly perceived as a low risk crime if the numbers of people being caught are so low. It may be seen as a high reward, low risk crime,” said Mr Dollimore.
Home Office figures show the proportion of bike thefts being solved by police has fallen to a historic low of 1.4 per cent in the year to June, down from 3.3 per cent in 2016. Nine in 10 offences were closed with no suspect identified.
The data, analysed by the Telegraph, shows that cyclists face a lottery with the chances of a theft being solved ranging from just 0.3 per cent in Lancashire - a one in 300 chance - to 5.4 per cent - more than one in 20 - in Gwent.
Cycling UK believes many of the bikes stolen have been targeted by gangs because of the profits to be made by selling them on second-hand sites such as Gumtree and eBay. It is alarmed, however, by the latest trend to mount bike muggings on cyclists.
Mr Dollimore said: “There have been increasing concerns about people cycling out of London to the Kent and Surrey hills who have been victims of muggings or robbery. There are a limited number of routes where people would cycle out of London.
“Somebody has posted on Strava what they are doing on their ride. The criminals will know it is someone on a £3,000 to £4,000 carbon fibre bike who has unwittingly signposted the fact that they are likely to be heading out to Kent or the Surrey Hills. It is on the police’s radar.”
Mr Dollimore said the charity recognised that bike theft would be a lower priority for police given competing demands on limited resources but he warned that much of it was organised crime where gangs targeted locations like train stations where they could steal as many as 30 bikes in 30 minutes.
“They end up mostly on second-hand sites within 24 hours. It’s a public misconception that it’s some lad looking for a bike to steal.”
Cycling UK believes police should target their resources at the point of sale with officers focused on suspicious bulk reduced-price sales on second-hand online auction sites. “Targeted action at the point of sale would be a more efficient use of resources,” said Mr Dollimore.