Tag Archives: theft

Not the Best Start to the New Season

This year hasn’t seen the best of starts for TWT. Blogging aside, my bike has suffered from two breakdowns, both involving the derailleur, and last month my cycling plans were seriously hampered after my rear wheel was stolen. This then wasn’t replaced properly by my local bike shop and caused a further problem when I was in the middle of a ride on the Isle of Wight, then another when I was visiting the Cyclopark in Gravesend. All in all, its been a very stuttering start. After February’s floods, which affected the area where I live very badly, the weather hasn’t improved much and has alternated between snow (in March) to perennial downpour. It seems that every time I’ve managed to find time for a proper ride, the weather has conspired against me.

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The View Outside TWTs House in February

With Mrs TWT due to give birth next month and with a two year old running around, I’m finding less time to devote to cycling so am planning some changes to my routine. The only real time I’m getting to ride is on my way to work, so I’m looking to change where I’m based, maybe with a view towards being able to cycle all the way in. At the moment, I live 30 miles from where I work – which is fine one-way, but I’m not sure I fancy working shifts and then cycling for 60 miles. I’ve also applied for a further Ride 2 Work certificate so I can get that road bike I was talking about at Christmas. I’ve settled on a Cannondale Synapse 5 after test-riding it at Evans’ Gatwick store and it was beautiful. It’s slightly over the certificate value maximum of £1000, but the difference is worth it. I’ve never ridden a road bike before that test run and have to say that it was an awesome experience. The bike was effortlessly smooth to ride, responsive to handle and comfortable for a beginner like me. More on that when it arrives.

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Stolen Saddle Bag

Saddle Bag

Today, some odious little tosser has stolen my Bontrager saddle bag from my bike. It didn’t have anything in it, except for some mud, and it is quite positively the worst cycling accessory I have ever purchased in my life. I shan’t miss it. With a sort of gypsy’s curse, I hope it brings as much misery to the thief as it did to me.

The bag never really served any purpose for me. It was too small to fit anything in, other than perhaps a small bunch of keys or some energy bars – certainly nothing that wouldn’t fit in a typical jersey or jacket pocket anyway. It hung awkwardly beneath the saddle and all it really did was block my rear reflector and invite people to unzip it to see if there was anything inside worth stealing. It was an impulse purchase back from when I first got into cycling and I thought it looked like the kind of thing I “might” need, “just in case”. Well, I never did, and I don’t care, so there.

Enjoy your mud-filled worthless accessory, Mr Tea-Leaf.

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Boris Bike Thefts

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Unlike cycle schemes in other cities, the rate of Boris Bike theft is remarkably low. In May 2013, only 143 bikes had been reported stolen. Assuming that number is now up to about 160 (and not counting bikes that have been stolen), that means that a bike gets stolen only about once in every 200,000 hires undertaken. By comparison, the Velib scheme operating in Paris had 16,000 of its 20,000 bikes damaged or stolen in only its first couple of years’ operation.

Why, then, are TfL’s bikes so rarely stolen compared to those in Paris? Part of the answer lies in culture; high unemployment in Paris, particularly amongst the youth, has led to something of a rebellion against a form of transport perceived to be primarily used by those affluent enough to do so. London has its areas of poverty and unemployment, but generally these aren’t in the Barclays Bike Hire footprint, most of which is in the most central parts of London. You won’t find many bikes in Newham, Tower Hamlets or Hackney, for example. But the other part of that answer lies in the security measures built in by TfL.

Barclays Bikes all require the user to enter their credit or debit card details when taking out a bike. It is simply impossible to do so any other way. Cash is not accepted. The other clever security feature lies in the absence of any locking mechanism, save for returning the bike to its dock. Walking around London, you simply won’t see Boris Bikes chained up to railings or casually left in the open for people to steal. The loss charge of £300 is enough to focus the minds of users and ensure that the overwhelming majority of bikes are returned at the end of their journeys.

Whether TfL will be able to retain this level of success if the scheme is rolled out more broadly across London remains to be seen, but credit should be given to the Mayor’s office for stopping the bikes going the way of shopping trolleys and Piaggio mopeds.

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