Bicycle Theft: European Statistics

Europeans are cyclers. 2012 was the first year in which bicycle sales surpassed car sales in nearly all European economies.[1]The same trend is visible even in countries like Spain and Italy that are known for their caveats towards the two-wheeler. However, there’s one major downside to cycling in urban areas: bicycle theft.

Bike Crime

Netherlands still at the top

It’s September now, the high season for bicycle theft just ended. 50% of all bicycles thefts in cities occur between May and August. All in all, stealing a bicycle remains good business for criminals. In Britain alone, 115,147 bicycles were stolen in 2010 – the number reflects thefts reported to the police. However, roughly only one in five victims reports a theft to the police. British officials suspect the absolute number to be around 500,000 thefts every year. The issue is that the police rarely get a stolen bicycle back, which invites criminals to strike again and again. In Germany the situation is hardly different: only 10% of all bicycle theft cases are solved. With more than 26,000 bicycles stolen every year, Berlin is the most notorious bicycle theft city in Germany in absolute numbers. In the former DDR states, the situation is worse than anywhere else. Magdeburg, Cottbus, and Leipzig regularly top the national list in terms of thefts per capita while Munich, Wuppertal, and Wiesbaden are the safest. There’s one country, however, that stands out. The Netherlands, a relatively small country, recorded 450,000 stolen bicycles in 2011. On average, only one in three thefts is reported. Although this number has been declining sharply over the past couple of years (in 2008 it was 735,000), bicycle theft remains a huge societal problem. Dutch bicycles are in demand, particularly in the neighbouring countries of Germany and Belgium. Gangs used to steal bicycles to re-sell them domestically but in-built tracking chips and stricter Dutch officials have made the home-market less attractive. iStock_000009354213Small

Bystanders! Act!

The problem is that it’s still so easy to steal a bicycle in the city. Why? Psychologists call it the bystander effect: witnesses usually never intervene even if someone is stealing a bicycle as openly as this fellow in the following video (link).[2] So in the end it all depends on the quality of your lock and the way you lock your bicycle. Here are some tips: use more than one lock as thieves will be repulsed to go through the extra hassle. Make sure you lock the wheels and the frame together to an immovable object. This will prevent thieves from removing parts of your bicycle. Finally, know the area: thieves anticipate that commuters lock their bicycles close to public transport stations and then work for the rest of the day. Be smart - don’t give bicycle theft a chance.

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