shutterstock 1607972476 - Taken For A Ride: The Criminal Flip Side Of Britain's Cycling Boom

One look around the roads of any town or city will illustrate how the popularity of cycling has transformed the UK’s transport infrastructure in recent years.

Many organisations – cultural, environmental, sporting and political – have realised that a rise in the number of individuals opting for two-wheels instead of four has enormous benefits.

In fact, back in 2020, the Government led by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, himself a keen cyclist, announced a £2 billion initiative to encourage even more people to follow his lead.

The venture was, said the then Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps,”a once in a lifetime opportunity” to change attitudes to commuting and exercise, possibly improving public health into the bargain.

Partially as a result of official endorsement, statistics show that some 8.5 million people in Britain took to their bikes at least once a week during 2021.

Even though that was a reduction compared to the number of individuals who were cycling during lockdown, it still represents a sizeable proportion of the population.

Nevertheless, whilst the kind of opportunities envisaged by Grant Shapps also hold significant commercial potential for legitimate business, they are not overlooked by the criminal fraternity either.

It was a point that I was reminded of while reading a report in The Times about the attempted theft in London of a folding bicycle belonging to Ben Derbyshire, former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Although understandably shaken up by his run-in with a gang which was wielding an angle-grinder to cut the bike’s lock, he succeeded in preventing them making off with it.

As data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) makes clear, he is far luckier than many thousands of bike owners across the country despite his ordeal.

They reveal that some 77,466 bikes were stolen In the 12 months to March 2022 alone – 212 such incidents each and every day.

If that’s not startling enough, just consider the total number of bikes taken by thieves in England and Wales over the last five years: a staggering 441,665.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a growing number of those are electric bikes.

Given the technology which goes into their manufacture, it’s not surprising to find that they’re more expensive than the mountain bikes which were so popular for so long with sections of the population.

One estimate suggests that even standard e-bikes can cost up to £3,000, with more sophisticated versions selling for far more.

Disappointingly, many thefts never result in a prosecution.

It reinforces how owners need to be conscious of what they can do to protect their bikes – irrespective of whether machines are human or battery-powered.

As so often when it comes to insurance, many people don’t pay attention to the small print, something which can be of critical importance.

For instance, within the broad value of assets covered by a contents policy, there are things known as ‘inner limits’, which set out the maximum sum likely as a result of a claim relating to particular types of items.

In the case of bicycles, the standard sum is generally only a few hundred pounds, regardless of how much might have been paid for them. The specific figures, of course, vary from insurer to insurer.

It really doesn’t pay to assume that high cost items will be automatically covered by insurers. If something is exceptional in its being unusual or expensive, it is always worth raising with your broker or insurer to avoid any nasty surprises.

Furthermore, there may be requirements for bikes to be secured inside the home rather than merely left in a garage or shed.

Bear in mind too the problems which can be posed by certain tracking apps.

It is common for those practising sports like running and cycling to publish online the distances which they have covered. Quite often, their profiles not only include details of where they have gone but photographs of expensive bikes which they own.

Such material is helpful to those people wishing to prey on those men and women who have possessions which might have a value once stolen.

Posting details on social media will not necessarily invalidate a claim in the event of a theft taking place.

Even so, it is another example of how, with a little more care, we can limit our exposure to crime in the first place.

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Written by Lauren Winstanley, Private Clients Executive