Bicycle theft

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A severed bicycle U-lock lying loose around a street sign pole in Chicago, Illinois has been apparently defeated by bolt cutters.
U-lock severed with bolt cutter in Študentsko naselje, Ljubljana, Slovenia
An attempted bicycle theft in Davis, California where the perpetrator tried to the break the U-lock with a car jack

Bicycle theft is the crime of stealing a bicycle.


According to the International Crime Victim Survey (2000), 56% of bicycle thefts across 17 countries were reported to the police.[1][2]:4 According to an estimate from the NCVS there was an estimated 1.3 million incidents of theft of or theft from bicycles.

Bicycle theft has increased in recent years.[3] According to the British Transport Police, theft and bicycle damage has grown 67% between 1999 and 2005.[2]:8

The majority of offenders are male under the age of 20,[2]:6 and according to a bicycle theft study in Ellensburg, Washington, approximately 80% of stolen bicycles are stolen for enjoyment or transportation services.[2]:6

The London Cycle Theft Survey (2016), by Stolen Ride and London Cycling Campaign, 55% reported being 'very concerned' with the security of their bikes out and about in London.[4][5]

Types of offenders[edit]

Although many bicycle thefts occur by offenders looking for financial gain, other offenders can be categorized into the following categories regarding their motivation.

  • Joyriders: Joyriders steal bikes for the sole purpose of riding the stolen bike for entertainment and will generally abandon the bike after using it. Most of these offenders are male and under the age of 16.
  • Acquisitive: These thieves steal bicycles for financial gain and usually trade them for cash or goods.

Perpetrator techniques[edit]

There are a variety of methods of stealing bikes.

If the bike is locked to an insecure structure such as a small sign or tree, the thief is able to lift the bike along with its lock off of the structure.
A thief may use a bolt cutter, hacksaw, or angle grinder to cut through the bicycle lock.
A thief may pick a lock that has a keyhole.
Sucker pole
A sucker pole is an item of street furniture that appears to be safe to lock a bike to, but can easily be dismantled by bicycle thieves to remove the lock without opening it. A sucker pole may be a sign, fence, bike rack or other feature.[6] In Chicago, 252 bicycles were stolen in this manner in 2012.[7]


U Rack
A single bicycle wheel remains locked to a pole of a stop sign at River Park Shopping Center's parking lot in Fresno, California, after the bike has apparently been unbolted from the wheel and carried away.

Bicycle theft is a common crime committed in areas with high population as well as on college campuses. According to the Police Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder, it was found that most bicycle thefts involved bikes being unlocked, improperly locked, or locked with devices such as a lightweight cable or low-quality U-lock devices.[8]

One can prevent bicycle theft by avoiding using bicycles with quick release wheels, as these are easy for anyone to take off without the use of any tools. Furthermore, one should use a strong U-lock to secure their bike. One should only lock his or her bike to sturdy structures and should not leave the bike in one place for too long.

The way in which the bike is locked to the structure is also important. It is important that both a wheel and the frame of the bike are locked to a structure so that a thief cannot steal a wheel and leave the bike, or vice versa. A former London bike thief recommended small and stiff d-locks, as they are hardest to cut.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ van Kesteren, J.N.; Mayhew, P.; Nieuwbeerta, P. (2000). "Criminal Victimisation in Seventeen Industrialised Countries: Key-findings from the 2000 International Crime Victims Survey". The Hague (Netherlands): Ministry of Justice, WODC.
  2. ^ a b c d Thorpe, Adam; Sidebottom, Aiden; Johnson, Shane D. (June 2008). "Bicycle Theft" (PDF). Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Problem-Specific Guides Series. No. 52. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. ISBN 1-932582-87-8. Retrieved 22 February 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Sidebottom, A. (2012). "Bicycle (bike) theft" (PDF). JDiBrief Series. London: UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science. ISSN 2050-4853. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "Cycle theft survey - more bike stands and better bike locks". Stolen Ride - London. 2016-12-04. Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  5. ^ "Bike stands, bike locks needed says survey". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  6. ^ Masoner, Richard (12 November 2013). "Watch for sucker poles, and a local journalist's stripped bike". Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  7. ^ Lum, Joanie (26 November 2013). "Chicago Bike Riders Watch For 'Sucker Poles'". FOX 32 News. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Preventing Bike Theft". University of Colorado Boulder - Police Department. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  9. ^ Cantle, Richard (13 May 2016). "Bike thief reveals tricks of the trade in this shockingly candid interview". Cycling Weekly. Retrieved 21 February 2017.

External links[edit]