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How to make your bike more secure in Cambridge: Top tips from Camcycle and Rutland Cycling shop

What can cyclists do to keep their bikes safe on the streets of Cambridge?

In recent weeks, the Cambridge Independent has explored the scale of the bike theft problem in the city. Our investigation showed that more than 95 per cent of reported bike thefts are closed by Cambridgeshire police without the suspects ever being identified, and we have sought to give a voice to those in the community who say that not enough is being done to tackle the problem .

A bike thief prepares to steal another bicycle
A bike thief prepares to steal another bicycle

In the first six months of this year alone, 726 stolen bicycles were reported to the police – and it is believed that many more thefts have gone unreported.

Police say they take reports of bike theft seriously and encourage all victims to report the crime. But what can cyclists do to avoid getting their bikes stolen in the first place?

Chris Start, of the Rutland Cycling shop at Cambridge Station, said a D-lock is certainly better than a chain.

“The best way to secure your bike if you’re locking it up in the city is by using a D-lock which goes around the frame,” he said. “It’s better to use a smaller D-lock. There was an ex-professional bike thief online who felt bad for all the times he’d stolen bikes, so he put out a list of ways to secure your bike more safely. He said that if you use a smaller D-lock, it gives less manoeuvrability for someone to be able to take it away using tools.”

A cable around both wheels, attached to whatever the bike is being locked to, also helps as many wheels are also stolen.

Camcycle’s suggestion of how to lock your bike to a Sheffield stand with two locks
Camcycle’s suggestion of how to lock your bike to a Sheffield stand with two locks

“A lot of people’s bicycles have quick-release wheels,” he explained, “and people flick the skewer out and take the wheel.

“So you can also get security skewers which help secure your wheels into place and make them much harder to take.”

Chris, who said he believes there has been a spike recently in the number of bikes being stolen in Cambridge, also noted that it’s not just what you’re using to lock up your bike that’s important, but also what you’re locking it to.

“What I’ve seen around Cambridge is people are cutting sections out of the U-bend frames that go into the ground, and then putting a sticker over them. Then when people lock their bikes up, the thieves just pull the locks through the section that they’ve cut out, through the sticker,” he explained.

Anna Williams, of CamCycle
Anna Williams, of CamCycle

Anna Williams, communications and community officer at Camcycle, the Cambridge cycling campaign group, said: “Basically, to stop your bike getting stolen, the first thing is to buy a good D-lock – or ideally two, and they should be Sold Secure Gold rating or above. You can get something for under £50 but obviously the more expensive your bike, the more expensive the lock you probably want.

“It’s also about choosing carefully where you park, so ideally taking it somewhere indoors that’s secure, or a lockable shed at home or at work. If not, then going for a Sheffield stand which is concreted into the ground, so not locking to anything that’s not secured – like a wooden fence or a pole or that type of thing.

“Look for Sheffield stands that might be just screwed down because we know from both railway stations that thieves have just been unscrewing those and taking away the bikes.”

Anna added: “Also, lock your bike very tightly to the stand so that thieves can’t remove your lock or get in so easily. Take away any detachable things like lights and e-bike displays and make sure you have a photo of your bike and as many details as you can record, so if your bike does get stolen, that’s going to give you the highest chance of getting it back.”

Cambridgeshire Constabulary also has a section on cycle theft on its website.

Camcycle's top tips

1) Buy good locks

Two D-locks or a D-lock plus a cable to go round the wheels are ideal – and look for locks that are marked with a Sold Secure Gold rating or above. These can be bought for under £50, but the more expensive your bike, the better the lock you’ll need. More expensive locks are thicker and therefore more difficult and time-consuming to cut through. Keep your spare keys somewhere safe.

2) Choose your parking place carefully

The top choice should be a secure indoor location, such as a lockable shed at home or an indoor employee parking space at work. If this isn’t an option, choose a secure and sturdy place which will allow you to attach both the frame and your wheels. U- or A-shaped ‘Sheffield stands’ concreted into the ground are common in Cambridge and are ideal for a wide range of different-sized cycles. Ground anchors for cargo bikes are also available in some places, such as the Queen Anne cycle park on Gonville Place. Check that thieves can’t lift the cycle up over the item (eg a post), cut through it (eg a wooden fence) or unscrew it (eg a badly-installed Sheffield stand). Choose busy, well-lit areas which are covered by CCTV and try to avoid leaving cycles locked up overnight in public spaces. Be wary of locking your cycle in the same space every day and make sure that you lock it in a way that doesn’t cause an obstruction to others – this will also protect it from getting damaged.

3) Lock your bike securely and take removable items with you

Best practice is to lock your frame and both wheels to the stand and as tightly as possible, so they are hard for thieves to manoeuvre. Position the lock low down with the keyhole facing the ground to make it more difficult to be picked. Take removable items such as lights, panniers and e-bike displays with you and consider security bolts instead of quick release on wheels and the seat post.

4) Always lock your bike if it will be out of your sight for any length of time

Never assume your cycle is safe if you are just nipping into a shop for a minute or leaving it in the front garden as you unlock the back door. Many people have been the victims of opportunistic thefts; without a lock, anyone can steal it.

5) Anticipate the worst-case scenario: Record key details of your cycle and purchase

You should take a good photo of your cycle and write down the frame number, brand name, model, colour and size, along with any distinguishing features such as stickers or attachments. Take photos of your receipt and any other proof of purchase or ownership documents.

6) Register your bike

Make sure you register your bike at bikeregister.com to give you the best chance of getting it back if it is stolen. You could also get it marked at one of Cambridgeshire Police’s security marking events and register it on immobilise.com.

7) Update your insurance

Make sure your bike is insured, using cycle-specific insurance or as part of your household contents insurance.

8) Know what to do if your cycle is stolen

Report the theft as soon as possible to the police, supplying the frame number and all identifying information. Report it stolen on bikeregister.com/stolen and stolen-bikes.co.uk/add-your-bike. Posting/searching on the local Facebook group Stolen Bikes in Cambridge and on selling sites such as Facebook, Gumtree, eBay and Shpock may also help you track it down.

Visit https://www.camcycle.org.uk/for more from Camcycle.

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