Just 1% of London bike thieves charged or cautioned, data shows

Of 18,800 incidents reported, just 206 resulted in action against someone

Bike theft
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just 1% of bike thefts in London over the past year resulted in a charge or caution,   Metropolitan Police data has shown.

Of the more than 18,800 thefts which were reported between November 2021 and October 2022, only 206 resulted in sanctions against someone, the BBC reported on Wednesday (opens in new tab).

A spokesperson from the London Cycling Campaign said it was "not good for the city" and would "deter people from cycling".

A study into bike theft in the UK published earlier this year revealed that a staggering 1,100 bikes are stolen every day, and yet, theft is rarely a barrier discussed by policymakers looking to increase cycling participation. 

Each year, 80,000 stolen bikes go unclaimed for, presumably with owners either shelling out for a new model, or giving up on their cycling altogether, an unfortunate fate given that a fifth of owners listed their bicycle and kit as their ‘most important possession’, according to the Direct Line report.

Hackney, Southwark and Tower Hamlets were the London boroughs that recorded the most thefts over the last 12 months, according to police data, but the total number of bikes reported stolen was down 18% compared with the previous year. Even so, it is still an overwhelming number.

>>> 'Nothing rocket science-y' — How UK police are combatting bike theft

Tom Bogdanowicz, the senior policy officer at London Cycling Campaign, said the true number of crimes was "significantly higher" than the reported figures.

He told the BBC that up to a quarter of bike theft victims never cycle again.

"It's not good for the city, because if there's less cycling then there are more emissions from cars, more congestion, and people's health isn't improving.

"Building cycling infrastructure is an excellent way of encouraging cycling, but if people have their bikes stolen then you lose customers."

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said it understood thefts were "upsetting and very frustrating for victims".

However: "It is not possible to physically send officers, or to carry out a lengthy investigation, in every case."

An investigation by the Daily Telegraph (opens in new tab) earlier this year found that in 87% of the 24,000 neighbourhoods that saw a reported bicycle theft in the last three years, not a single case was ever solved.

This lack of action and hope over bike theft has been shown in recent figures from polling: a YouGov study (opens in new tab) showed that 77% of Britons who don’t expect that the police will try and properly investigate bicycle theft, the highest level for any of the 15 crimes we asked about. Just one in nine Britons (11%) think the police would attempt to pursue leads and catch the culprit.

Our own Tom Davidson had his bike nicked from Hampstead Heath in the summer, and has given up any hope of getting it back. It is at the level where it is surely discouraging people from cycling, and you wonder how cycling will ever become popular in the UK with the amount of things seemingly working against it.

Meanwhile, Transport for London data showed the boom in walking and cycling in London has continued, with levels of cycling remaining 40% higher than levels seen before the pandemic.

Cycling on weekdays this autumn has been around 20-25% higher than pre-pandemic levels, despite less commuting in general, and around 90% higher at weekends.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.