Cycle theft in Islington: Who is really at fault?
If you use cycling as a regular way of getting around in London, then you probably think about this almost every day. You may try to reassure yourself whenever you leave your bike in not-so-safe places without securing it properly, by saying: “I am just going to stay there for five minutes and the area is covered by CCTV, therefore everything is going to be fine.”
But something happens, and you end up staying longer than planned. You forget about your worries and you think it is not going to happen to you. But then you go outside and you cannot see your bike anywhere. What went wrong?
Bike theft is an important issue that a lot of people take into account when it comes to cycling in London. Around 20,000 bikes are reported stolen in London each year, according to the Metropolitan Police.
There is one place where most cyclists go to in Islington if they have problems with their bikes: the Look Mum No Hands café and workshop in Old Street. Sebastian Santiso has been working there for eight months and he has witnessed a lot of people come in with different parts of their bikes stolen. But what are thieves mostly looking for?
“To tell the truth, I try to find out if they actually follow any kind of pattern, but they don’t,” Santiso says. “They can steal from nice wheels to really cheap wheels. There are some people who just try to take anything, some parts, because they know someone is going to need that for their bike and they will be able to sell it. You have a bit of everything.”
The thought is a little bit scary, but it shows how cyclists must always think twice about the places they leave their bikes and how they secure them. In 2012, the BBC reported that there is a less than 4% chance of recovering your bike in London when it gets stolen.
“I think there are very small chances of finding your bike,” Santiso says. “I heard just one customer that got her bike back, but only because she was every day looking on the internet and getting emails from different websites about it. She was really lucky. But I have a friend of mine who is still looking for his bike months after it was stolen and he still has not found it.”
Registering your bike is your first and best chance at getting it back. However, the system has some flaws. “You can prove that the bike is yours by showing the documents but if it’s a nice one then they can sell the frame or some parts so even if you track it down it does not help a lot”, says Santiso.
But the truth is it doesn’t matter whether you own an expensive bike or a cheap one. If you go outside to get your bike and you can’t find it, you’re probably going to be upset either way.
Unfortunately for Tom Joka, a personal trainer from Islington, he has gotten pretty used to it: he had two of his bikes stolen during the past few years. ”I think every cyclist is going to be worried about his bike at some level,” he says.
Furthermore, Jelle Harnisfeger, who works at Cycle Surgery in Highbury, believes that the possibility of your bike being stolen comes with the decision to cycle regularly.
But the real problem is: why should cyclists blame themselves whenever their bike gets stolen? Should it be like this? Some may argue that whenever you leave your car somewhere, you lock it properly, so the same thing should be done for bikes as well. But it’s not that easy.
Harnisfeger suggests that a cyclist should invest in a good bike and a good lock, but he draws attention to certain circumstances: the moment you leave an expensive bike outside for longer than half an hour, you’re already taking a big risk:
“No lock is unbreakable. If they’re really good they can break it within ten minutes. Quite often we tell people: if you spend a lot on a bike, you should invest in a lock as well, but they don’t listen to us.”
But although the fear that your bike might get stolen is always going to be there, you can still try your best to prevent that from happening. The video below, from the Global Cycling Network, shows some basic steps to secure your bike.