Gone in 20 minutes - As bike thefts rise, Aviva puts theft hotspots and security under scrutiny

Article date: 25 August 2010

David Cameron, Jon Snow, Boris Johnson... these avid cyclists have all fallen prey to the same fate as one third of the UK’s bike owners and had at least one bike stolen in the last five years. Of those. 8% claim to have had as many as three or more go missing.

These high theft rates were revealed during the Aviva ‘Cycle Security' project undertaken by the insurer earlier this month. The project drew on the experiences of 2,000 bike owners* to establish the top locations for bike theft, as well as the poor security practices often used by unwitting cyclists in the UK. These scenarios were then recreated and put to the test in a live, undercover experiment**

Gone in minutes
In the covert experiment a bike was placed in each of the top five hotspot theft locations around London and left with a range of poor security methods. Each was then timed to see how quickly opportunistic thieves pounced.

Three out of the five bikes were stolen within five hours and one vanished in a matter of minutes.

1. Gone in 20 minutes from outside a shop

  • Left unlocked outside a shop in West London while the researcher was inside. The bike was gone within 20 minutes
  • 21% of bike owners have suffered this fate

2. Gone in under four hours from outside a university

  • This bike was left locked to a short parking meter outside a university union and was stolen within four hours
  • 10% of bike owners have had their bike stolen from outside a college or University

3. Gone in under five hours from outside a home.

  • The third bike to go missing was left unlocked, but within view outside in residential street in Fulham, West London
  • 15% of bike owners have had a bike stolen from outside their home

Despite outside the office (10%) and outside a train station (10%) appearing in the top five theft hotspots, the bikes planted outside a central London office and Euston station were, luckily, still in place after 48 hours.  The bike outside the station was unlocked, but left next to locked bikes making it appear more secure and the bike outside the office was locked, but with the lock around the saddle, leaving it easier to steal.

The majority of cyclists take their security seriously, but Aviva’s research with bike owners revealed that nearly two thirds are taking unnecessary risks with their bike including leaving it unlocked and unattended while running a quick errand (13%) locked to a short post or bollard (12%) and unlocked, but optimistically hidden out of sight (17%).

Ian Coull, household claims manager at Aviva says: “Traditionally during August we see a 25% increase in bike thefts as more people take to the great outdoors and make the most of good weather - the average cost of replacing a bike is around £400.

“So with the Bank Holiday approaching bike owners should be especially careful not to provide rich pickings to opportunistic thieves targeting bike hotspots and poor security methods.

“Obviously bike insurance will cover you for any theft or damage, but much better not to go through the hassle of dealing with the loss of your transport in the first place!

“And remember insurers do expect your cycle to be properly secured – and that means locked to a fixed immovable object – unlike the poor security measures used in our experiment.”

Last year there was an estimated 540,000 bikes stolen in the UK which is up 22 per cent from the year before.***  In London the Metropolitan police have just introduced a 30-strong taskforce to crack down on bike crime.

Top tips for securing your bike:

  1. Prevent thieves from taking your bike by locking it to a fixed object such as a bike rack or a ground anchor, these are often found in designated bike parking areas
  2. Ensure the bike cannot be lifted off the anchor otherwise thieves may still be able to steal it
  3. Use a good quality lock such as a D-lock which is strong and difficult for thieves to cut through
  4. Ensure the lock is around the wheel, frame AND anchor to which it is attached otherwise thieves may be able to remove parts of your bike and lift the main frame away
  5. Try to remove easy-to-steal parts or accessories like the saddle and post, pumps or clip-less pedals, some thieves like to steal these too
  6. Leave your bike in a well-lit area with CCTV cameras where thieves are less likely to loiter and will be deterred from robbery
  7. Avoid leaving your bike in isolated areas, and lock it near to other bikes so yours is not such an obvious target
  8. Register your bike with a tracker website such as www.bikeregister.com or www.immobilise.com so police authorities can trace and identify your bike if it does get stolen
  9. Photograph your bike and note down the serial number, make and model.  If it does get stolen this will make it easy to identify to the police and insurers
  10. Security mark the frame using an ultraviolet marker. If it is stolen and found again, it will be identified as yours and possibly returned to you.

Bike Cover
Aviva bicycle cover can be added to a home policy from around £10 a year and will cover each of the family’s bikes up to your chosen limit (from £300 to £2,500) this also means your cycles are covered anywhere in the world.

For further information on direct insurance from Aviva please go to www.aviva.co.uk

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For further information, please contact:

Laura Moss: The Red Consultancy: 020 7025 6580: laura.moss@redconsultancy.com

Clemmie Nettlefold: The Red Consultancy: 020 7025 6568: clemmie.nettlefold@redconsultancy.com

Rebecca Holmes: Aviva Press Office: 01603 685 177: 07800 690731: rebecca.l.holmes@aviva.co.uk

* Research conducted by OnePoll. 2,000 bicycle owners aged 18+ were polled from 26 July to 29 July 2010

** The Experiment

The experiment took place in London on 3, 5 and 6 of August 2010.
On 3 August five bikes were set up in each scenario securely locked with D-locks to immovable anchors. The bikes were checked every hour. None of the bikes were stolen during this control day.
On 5 and 6 August each of the five bikes were placed in the top five theft locations with the most common bad security methods used – these locations and methods were identified through research carried out amongst bike owners who have experienced at least one bike theft in the last five years. The bikes were checked every half an hour – see below for details of the research.

Bike scenario 1

  • Outside a shop in Fulham
  • Left unlocked while researcher was in the shop
  • Stolen within 20 minutes

Bike scenario 2

  • Outside University of London Union
  • Locked to a short parking meter
  • Gone within four hours

Bike scenario 3

  • Outside a home on a street in Fulham
  • Unlocked, but where the bike could be seen if monitored continuously
  • Gone within five hours

Bike scenario 4

  • Outside an office with bike racks
  • Locked with lock around a removable part and bike rack
  • Not stolen after two days

Bike scenario 5

  • Outside Euston station, London
  • Unlocked, but left adjacent to another locked bike
  • Not stolen after two days
  • This experiment was not intended to be scientific, but provide an indication of how quickly opportunistic thieves take advantage of poor bike security.

*** Statistics from the latest British Crime Survey 2008-2009 – an annual survey of crime levels in England and Wales conducted by Research Development Statistics

Notes to editors

  • Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group, serving 53 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific
  • Aviva's main business activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion at 31 December 2009
  • We are the largest insurance services provider in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pensions products in Europe
  • Aviva’s life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 9.8%** and a leading position in its key markets of savings, protection and annuities
  • Aviva UK Health is one of the largest providers of income protection, group risk and private medical insurance in the UK covering over 2.8m customers. We also provide occupational health solutions and services to a wide range of industry sectors.
  • The Aviva media centre at www.aviva.com/media includes images, company and product information and a news release archive
  • For broadcast-standard video, please visit http://www.aviva.com/media/video
  • Follow us on twitter: www.twitter.com/avivaplc

*based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009

**Source: ABI data released May 2010

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