There are a lot of bike crime statistics for the UK, many of which are surprising and most of which are pretty depressing. And we’re going to get into them all in this article, as well as some original data from our own research.
But before we start, there’s one very important point that we need to bear in mind when looking at the numbers:
Bike crime statistics depend on a crime actually being reported to the police. If a bike theft isn’t reported to the police, it won’t appear in any of the data sets you’ll see in the newspapers or websites.
And according to my own survey of over 4000 bike crime victims, 56% of them did not report the crime to the police.
Other surveys have found higher numbers: 71% of UK bike theft victims didn’t report the crime to the police, according to stolen-bike.co.uk.
This means that the problem is most likely twice as bad as it appears from the numbers below!
But with that is mind, let's get into the most up to date and surprising UK bike theft statistics I could find in 2023:
How many bikes are stolen each year in the UK?
An average of 77,313 bicycles are reported stolen in the UK every year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. This number is calculated by working out the mean number of reported bicycle thefts over the last 5 years.
The most recent data shows that 77,148 bike thefts were reported to England and Wales police in 2022/2023.
That means that a bike was stolen every 7 minutes in England & Wales in 2022/23. And don’t forget, this is reported cases: the actual number of bike thefts would have been at least double that.
The UK cities with the highest bike thefts include London, and the university towns of Cambridge, York and Oxford.
When it comes to the UK police finding the culprits, the numbers are even more depressing…
What percentage of bike crimes are solved in the UK?
Of the 77,313 reported bike thefts in 2022/23:
- 90% of the police cases were closed without a suspect being identified
- Just 1.7% resulted in someone being charged
No wonder so few bike crime victims bother to report the theft to the police: the chances of the police arresting anyone are so incredibly low.
And the chances of a bike crime victim getting their bike back are also pretty low, according to the statistics. In my survey of over 4000 bike crime victims, just 20% were reunited with their stolen bike.
This is of course influences the public’s trust in the police and their belief that the police do anything when a bike theft is reported.
A YouGov survey published towards the end of 2022 found that 77% of UK respondents don’t expect the police to properly investigate bicycle theft. This is the highest level of all the 15 crimes they were asked about.
Statistics on how bike crime affects people in the UK
We shouldn’t forget that bike crime isn’t just about the loss of personal property. It can also affect the mental well-being of the victims.
The most recent data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales on victims of bike crime indicate that 81% were emotionally affected by the theft, 31% feeling “very much” or “quite a lot” affected.
Not surprisingly (considering these numbers) and most depressingly, this causes many victims to rethink their attitude to cycling.
Data from the survey from stolen-bikes.co.uk found that 66% of bike theft victims cycled less and 25% gave up cycling altogether. Which are similar to numbers found in bike theft statistics for the US.
Are there any positive UK bike crime statistics?!
While all these statistics are indeed very depressing, it’s worth bearing a couple of other pieces of data in mind:
- 98% of bicycle owners in the UK were not the victim of bike crime in 2022
- Bike crime fell by 11.5% in the UK in 2021
Although the drop in bike crime in 2021 is very much a return to normal after a COVID pandemic bike crime spike, there has been a general downward trend in reported bike theft over the last 15 years.
Reasons to be cheerful? Not if you are one of the victims.
My Bike Theft Survey Results for UK
How many times has your bike been stolen?
- 22% of UK cyclists have never had their bike stolen
- 42% of UK cyclists have had just one bike stolen
- 78% of UK cyclists have had one or more bike stolen
- 4% of UK cyclists have had 6 or more bikes stolen!
These numbers merely confirm what we already know: bike crime is a huge problem in the UK, with 78% of respondents to this survey reporting that their bikes have been stolen on one or more occasion. And 4% indicating they’ve suffered 6 or more bikes thefts!
Where was the last bike stolen from?
- 31% of the stolen bikes were taken from the street
- 24% of the stolen bikes were taken from the owner's work or public authority parking
- 42% of the stolen bikes were taken from the outside of the owner's property
- 3% of stolen bikes were taken from the inside of the owners' property!
Although 31% of stolen bikes were taken from the street, making it the single most common location for bike crime, 45% of the bikes were stolen from inside or outside the owner’s home (this includes sheds, garages, front and back gardens/yards).
This suggests that while we tend to think that our bikes are most at risk of theft when they’re in public places, such as the street, they’re actually more likely to be stolen while they’re stored at home.
This could be because we’re less likely to lock our bikes at home. Indeed, while 84% of the bikes stolen on the street were locked, just 63% of those stolen from the owners homes were secured.
Thieves know this and exploit it.
It’s also worth noting that with 24% of stolen bikes being taken from work or public authority parking spaces, these organisations should be doing more to protect our bikes (the fact that we are probably less likely to lock our bikes there too doesn’t diminish this point).
What was the bike secured with?
- 23% of stolen bikes weren’t locked at all
- 35% of stolen bikes were locked with a cable lock
Despite everything that’s said by me and others, many people continue to use cable locks to protect their bikes. Which is why 35% of the stolen bikes were “secured” with cable locks: cable locks offer almost zero protection from theft.
However, 23% of stolen bikes weren’t secured with any kind of lock! As we have already discussed, many of these bikes will have been inside, or on, the owner's property, where they might have seemed safer.
That folding locks were being used in just 2% of cases is a little surprising. It’s more likely to be because they're less common than because they're more secure (generally, they’re not). Although, it could be a case of thieves also being less experienced with tackling them.
What security rating did the primary lock have?
- 58% of bike theft victims didn’t know the security level of their lock
- 19% of the bike locks didn’t have any recognized security level
With 58% of respondents unaware of their locks' security rating and 19% using a lock without a security rating, a total of 77% of the stolen bikes were locked with indeterminable security levels.
And since 35% of the stolen bikes were secured with cable locks, this is hardly surprising: cable locks offer such a low level of protection, they’re hardly ever rated by independent security testers such as Sold Secure and ART.
Of course there are low quality, low security d-locks, chains and folding locks too. Which is why the Sold Secure ratings are so important: they make it easy to distinguish the poor locks from the good ones.
How much did you spend on your locks?
- 77% of bike theft victims spent less than £41 on their bike lock
- 41% of bike theft victims spent less than £20 on their bike lock
The old saying that you should spend 10% of the value of your bike on your lock seems very out of date to me. If you follow this advice and have a £200 bike, you would get a £20 lock. And there aren’t any decent bike locks available for £20 or less!
However, unfortunately £20 or less is exactly what 41% of our respondents spent on their bike locks.
You can get a decent lock for around £35 if you shop around. But you’ve got to know what you’re looking for. Both OnGuard and Zefal make great value, high security locks for example. You just need to clean and lubricate them regularly to keep them working properly!
But as 2% of respondents who spent over £100 on their lock found out: a super expensive bike lock is no guarantee that your bike won’t be stolen. A thief with an angle grinder is going to get through any lock.
There does seem to be a correlation: the more money you spend on your lock, the less likely your bike will be stolen. But don't forget that as locks get more expensive, less people will buy them.
What was the approximate value of the bike?
- 47% of stolen bikes were worth £100 - £400
- 13% of stolen bikes were worth less than £100
- 8% of stolen bikes were worth more than £1000
These results merely show that bikes in the £100-£400 price range are more common than any other price range. Thieves are generally not usually particularly picky: they will take whatever is easiest to steal.
Did you have a record of the frame number of the bike?
- 67% of bike theft victims didn’t have a record of the bike’s frame number
Most people (67%), still don’t know their bike frame number. This is pretty depressing, but entirely predictable.
Unlike car number plates, frame numbers are not easily visible, and bike shops don’t tend to inform customers either what the frame number of their new purchase is, or why it’s important to keep a record of it.
It’s only when their bike is stolen that people think about the frame number, and then only if they report the theft to the police (see below).
Did you report the stolen bike to the police?
- 63% of bike theft victims reported the crime to the police
In stark contrast to the US (where the majority of bike thefts were not reported to the police) or even Canada, in the UK, we seem to have more belief in the abilities of the boys in blue to solve bike crime, with 63% reporting a bike theft to the police.
But is this trust well-placed? We will see…
Did you get the stolen bike back?
- 89% of bike theft victims didn’t get their stolen bike back
Unfortunately, only 11% of stolen bikes were ever returned to their owners. Of course, you’re unlikely to get your bike back if you don’t report the crime to the police. So we might expect a much higher proportion of returned bikes in cases where the crime was reported to the police.
We might do. But we’d be disappointed…
The chart above shows that in cases where the bike theft was reported to the police, only 11% of the bikes were reunited with their owners, compared to 10% in cases where the theft was not reported!
Which is a pretty damning indictment of the ability of the police to tackle bike crime in the UK. Having said that, many bikes are recovered by the police but are not returned because the original owners didn’t know their frame numbers!
How many times have components (wheels, seats, brakes etc) been stolen from your bike?
- 64% of respondents have never had any components stolen from their bikes
I was expecting a lot more people to have been the victims of component theft, to be honest. Probably because I’ve had so many components stolen from my bike over the years! While 26% of respondents have had components stolen from their bikes, they are still a minority.
Which components have been stolen?
- 32% of component theft victims have had wheels stolen
- 29% of component theft victims have had lights stolen
- 14% of component theft victims have had seats stolen
That wheels, lights and seats make up 75% of all stolen bike components is not surprising, since they are the easiest to get off the bike. Wheels and seats are often attached with quick release levers, which don’t require a tool to loosen and remove.
So if a thief wants your wheels or seat (and these are not secured with additional locks), they can just open up the lever, loosen the screw and make off with your stuff. Similarly, lights are usually easy to remove too, as they are not designed to be left on the bike for long periods.
Handlebars, brakes, gears etc. are usually much more difficult to remove, requiring hex keys, or spanners, and a little more fiddling around. Although I’ve had all of these stolen at different times!
The other components people reported stolen in my survey included:
- Seat post
- Hand pump
- Luggage rack
- Bicycle computer
- Quick release skewers
- Saddle clamps
- Bike tools
What was the last stolen component attached / secured with?
- 32% of stolen components were attached to the bike with quick release clamps
- 3% of stolen components were attached to the bike with security skewers/nuts
Although it’s tempting to look at this data and conclude that it shows security skewers or nuts (such as Hexlox, Pinhead etc), massively reduce the chance of your components being stolen, we can’t make that conclusion.
The main reason that only 3% of stolen components were secured with skewers or nuts is that hardly anyone uses them!
However, anecdotally I can attest that I had innumerable components stolen before I started using security skewers and hex key blockers, and none stolen once I started using them. So I know they work.
It’s easier to make a case for using a supplementary cable lock around your wheels or saddle, as their use is quite widespread. 10% less components attached with quick release levers were stolen when also protected with a cable (than not). And 15% less components attached with regular nuts were stolen when protected also with a cable (than not).
I’m not a big fan of these cable myself (because they’re fiddly to carry and use, and offer virtually no practical security against a thief with the most basic tools). But it seems they do reduce the rates of theft!
How Common is Bike Theft in the UK?
Bike theft is very common in the UK. Between July 2021 and June 2022, 74,421 bike thefts were reported to the police in England and Wales. That’s equivalent to one bike being stolen every 7 minutes.
What is the Most Stolen Bike in the UK?
According to data from Bike Register, the most commonly stolen brand of bike in the UK is Specialized (27.6%), and the most common stolen model of bike is the "Specialized Sirrus" (14.3%).