Hidden camera film reveals people turn a blind eye to bicycle theft


A recent social experiment by Bike Dock Solutions, the specialist provider of secure cycle parking equipment and accessories, has revealed that members of the public who witness a cycle theft will not intervene – and very rarely will they even report what they have seen.

Bike Dock Solutions sent a hidden camera crew to a London market location, where a stooge was filmed ‘stealing’ a bicycle at pre-arranged times during the day, in front of numbers of witnesses (the results of which can be seen here: www. link) Despite over ten ‘thefts’ taking place throughout a 60-minute period, nobody intervened or interacted with the ‘thief’. The exercise showed that on average it takes nearly three minutes for people to recognise that a theft has taken place and that, at the busiest times, up to 15 people could walk past the theft without either recognising or intervening.

After the event, some of the market stewards did report that a couple of people had informed them about witnessing a bicycle being stolen, but this took place so long after the ‘thefts’ that had it been a real scenario, the thief would be long gone.

Based on police crime statistics from 2010, a report released in June suggests that bicycle theft costs British cyclists around £80m a year. The same report put the total number of reported stolen bikes in the UK at 115,147.

The study also suggested that only 20% of cycle thefts are reported to the police – meaning the true number of bicycles stolen in the UK each year is actually closer to 533,000. Compared to 2009, the statistics indicate that reported cycle theft has increased by 4%, whilst there has been a 12% increase in unreported cycle theft.

With bicycles being easily cut free from locks when fastened to unsecure parking areas, such as fences and railings, the only real deterrent is to ensure that secure cycle parking facilities are being used.

James Nash, Director of Bike Dock Solutions, advises: “Although more and more people are being encouraged to take up cycling, they are still being deterred by the lack of secure cycle parking facilities. In the UK, a bicycle is stolen every minute and less than five per cent of those are returned to their owners.”

The enthusiasm for cycling is not in doubt, with an estimated five million people already regularly cycling in the UK, and more than 100,000 having signed up to the Mayor of London’s cycle hire scheme and over 1.5 million journeys being made across central London since its launch in July. Other cycle hire schemes are now being rolled out in other parts of the country and an additional 2,000 bikes will shortly be made available across east London ahead of the Olympics as part of the London scheme.

However, if you are an employer or a public building, any significant increase in cycling traffic needs to be met with a consequent increase in secure cycling parking and storage facilities; with the emphasis on secure, as Nash continues: “Cyclists are more likely to have their bikes stolen than motorcyclists their motorcycle or car owners their car, and cycle theft is found to be the single greatest deterrent to cycle use after fears concerning road safety.”