Massive long term drop in bike thefts!

Yes you read that right! There has been a huge drop in bike thefts. And no, it's got nothing to do with Covid-19!

I've been looking into bike theft statistics over the last few days with a vague idea about making some useful info-graphics.

With the increasing popularity of cycling in recent years and with plenty of alarming headlines in the back of my mind, I was expecting to see some pretty depressing numbers.

But the fact is: last year (2019) there were 52% less bike thefts than there were in 1995. And while there was some increase between 2004 and 2011, they have been falling again steadily since then...


Crime Survey for England and Wales: Recorded Bike Thefts 1981 - 2019


And don't forget: this decrease in bike theft is occurring at the same time that the numbers of people cycling is increasing significantly...


England, Scotland & Wales: cycle traffic estimates, 1993-2018

Graph of Cycling Traffic 1993 - 2018

Image courtesy of Cycling UK


There's a couple of things worth mentioning right away here...

The bike theft numbers (the blue line in the first graph) are not from the police or the government. So they haven't been "massaged" downwards.

They're collated by the Office for National Statistics and come from the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Bicycles that are stolen as part of another crime (eg burglary) are not counted. So the actual numbers will be higher. But it's the trend that I'm most interested in here, and it's completely trustworthy.

And it's not just bicycle theft that's been falling. All property related crime in the UK has declined in exactly the same way. I checked out the other graphs on the ONS website and they all look the same.

Indeed, almost all crime has decreased over the last 25 years, all over the Western world, including the US.

And although there are plenty of theories, no-ones really sure why this is happening!

So while bicycle theft obviously remains a massive, massive problem, you're actually much less likely to have your bike stolen today than almost any other time in the last 40 years!

I know if you've just had a bike stolen, this sort of information offers scant comfort. In fact it's just really annoying.

But if you get a good lock, and keep your bike in a decent shed or other secure storage space, then (while it can certainly still be stolen), you've got a better chance than ever that it won't!

Carl
 

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