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Taking on London's bicycle thieves

Mayor of London, TfL and Met Police work with Halfords to curb bike theft

Mark Moran
13 November 2020
A heavy-duty cycle lock
A heavy-duty cycle lock
Secure cycle hub in Walthamstow
Secure cycle hub in Walthamstow


Londoners are being urged to register their bikes and take advantage of discounts on good quality locks to deter bicycle thieves.

Transport for London (TfL) has launched a new collaboration with UK cycling retailer Halfords to encourage Londoners to securely lock up their bikes and reduce the risk of theft.

Everyone who completes TfL’s free online Cycle Skills course will receive 15% off Halfords’ own brand locks, as well as lights and helmets.

Despite fewer journeys being made across the city overall, cycling is up by 20%, with Santander Cycles use up by 20% too. On some routes, there has been a 200% increase in cycle trips.

Halfords have reported a 60% year-on-year increase in sales of new bikes since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as record numbers of Londoners take up cycling.

While sales continue to rise, bike theft is being increasingly reported across the capital. Between April and September this year, reports of bike theft almost trebled, with 3,079 cycles reported stolen in September, up from 2,004 in September 2019.

There are fears that many owners of new bikes are not aware of the latest advice or using high quality locks to keep their bikes as secure as possible.

An Opinium survey of 691 current London bike owners commissioned by Halfords found that almost half – 47% – have not marked or registered their bike. While seven in 10 respondents said they use a bike lock, only half (50.5%) are using a more robust secure lock.

TfL warns that thieves can cut through cheaper quality locks in a matter of seconds. Londoners are thus being reminded to use two locks of ‘Gold Sold Secure’ standard – ensuring one is a D-lock – to secure both the bike’s frame and wheels to a stand at recognised cycle parking facilities. Where possible, parking should be well-lit and covered by CCTV.

Londoners are also advised to use a DIY bike marking kit to get their bike registered to the BikeRegister secure online national database, which all UK police forces have access to. Bike marking kits protect your bike by permanently and chemically etching a unique BikeRegister ID into the coating of your bike's frame.

The etching is visible blue, leaving a neat unique mark that does not affect the frame’s integrity and is a highly effective deterrent to bike thieves.

Further advice to keep bikes safe from thieves include:

  • Get your bike security marked and registered, an highly effective, visible deterrent to bike thieves
  • Record details and photos of your bike, including its frame number and distinguishing features
  • Secure your bike as close to the stand as possible to give any thieves little or no room to manoeuvre
  • Take parts that are easy to remove with you, for example, saddles and wheels, or use secure skewers.

Since May, TfL has installed 1,540 new cycle parking spaces across London, focused around busy areas like high streets and transport hubs. This builds on the 150,000 on-street cycle parking spaces available across London and more than 20,000 cycle parking spaces at stations across London. Many free spaces are near the station entrances or in our station car parks, making them convenient and easy to find.

Londoners who have had their bikes stolen are encouraged to contact the police. Thieves know that if they are caught with a registered bike, they will be arrested and the owner can be traced.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I know how distressing it can be when a bike is stolen. As well as doing all we can to address the scourge of bike theft, I urge Londoners to register their bike and invest in a good quality lock to minimise the risk of theft. I continue to work closely with Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police Service to help ensure the risk of crime doesn’t deter people from cycling.”

Siwan Hayward, director of compliance, policing operations and security at TfL, said: “This year, we’ve seen thousands more people discover the health and environmental benefits of getting around London by bike. As cycling continues to boom in popularity, however, bike theft is unfortunately also on the rise. It’s therefore crucial for Londoners to do all they can to minimise the risk of their bike being stolen.

“We’re encouraging Londoners to get their bikes visibly security marked and registered and to invest in a good quality lock to keep them safe. Our new collaboration with Halfords will ensure that bike locks are even more affordable to all those who complete our online Cycle Skills course.”

Graham Stapleton, chief executive of Halfords, said: “We are delighted to partner with TfL in support of our mission to get more Londoners cycling, as a healthy and green way to travel around the capital. Our partnership will encourage people to brush up on their cycling skills, make sure their bikes are more secure, and learn more about the Cycle2Work scheme.

“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen a huge rise in cycling, with sales of bikes up 60 per cent on last year. Yet research we have commissioned has shown that almost one in ten Londoners are not using any of the most commonplace bike security measures, despite figures showing theft is on the rise. Taking security measures like good-quality locks and registering your bike on a national database can make a huge difference in protecting your bicycle.

“We want as many people as possible to be able to get back on a bike and our campaign with TfL, alongside initiatives such as Halfords free 32-point bike check, aims to do just that.”

Acting Chief Superintendent Gary Taylor from the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command, said: “Frustratingly, bicycles still remain a popular target for opportunistic thieves and the Met is committed to working closely with TfL to educate Londoners about the risks and the best measures we can take to prevent crime. This includes encouraging cyclists to use designated cycle parking spaces, investing in good quality locks and registering your bike with Bike Register. We welcome this initiative and look forward to continue working closely to improve cycle security and safety throughout the capital.”

TfL’s online Cycle Skills course is an online course tailored to cycling in London that covers everything from getting a bike set up for a first ride to tips for cycling safety with children in one place. Since it was launched in July, more than 1,400 people have completed the four-module course.

The Halfords discount is part of a broader ‘London By Cycle’ collaboration between TfL and the retailer which aims to help more Londoners get cycling, including:

  • An online Cycle Safety Hub, providing information and guides for Londoners on how to cycle safely and securely
  • A redesign of the Halfords online purchase journey for bikes, to more prominently encourage customers to purchase a marking kit when ordering a new bike.

Halfords is also supporting cycling through:

  • A free 32-point check for the seven million unused bicycles that are estimated to be languishing in Britain’s homes and sheds – plus a series of easy-to-follow ‘how to’ maintenance videos
  • Helping employers promote cycling through the national Cycle2Work scheme which lets employees buy a bicycle and accessories at a significantly reduced rate, paying back the cost through a monthly salary sacrifice
  • An online 'Cyculator' tool which Londoners can use to work out how much cheaper their commute would be by bike.

TfL has been working with London’s local authorities throughout the pandemic to deliver the Streetspace for London programme, which is helping people to walk and cycle safely while maintaining social distancing. 61.6km of new or upgraded cycling infrastructure has now been completed through the Streetspace programme, with almost 90km delivered or under construction.

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