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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!

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Bike Theft: The 10 worst places

We all know that bike thievery is rampant. In both the US and Europe. But have you ever wondered which are the very worst places for bike theft? Here’s a handy little table that answers that vet question…

Bike Theft: The Top Ten Cities

In the UK:In the US:

  1. Central London

  2. Kingston-upon-Thames

  3. Cambridge

  4. Bristol

  5. York

  6. Oxford

  7. South West London

  8. Brighton

  9. Portsmouth

  10. Nottingham


  1. Philadelphia, PA

  2. Chicago, IL

  3. New York City, NY

  4. San Francisco, CA

  5. Tucson, AZ

  6. Portland, OR

  7. Denver, CO

  8. New Haven, CT

  9. Cambridge, MA

  10. Austin, TX

Why these cities? I think it’s pretty straightforward. These are generally the places where cycling is most popular. These are the cities with the highest number of bikes and the highest proportion of the population cycling regularly…

Bike Usage: The Top Ten Cities

In the UK:In the US:

  1. Cambridge

  2. Oxford

  3. York

  4. Hackney (Central london)

  5. Gosport (Portsmouth)

  6. Exeter

  7. Islington (Central london)

  8. Ham & Ful (Central london)

  9. Richmond (Southwest London)

  10. Lambeth (Central london)


  1. New York City, NY

  2. Los Angeles, CA

  3. Portland, OR

  4. San Francisco, CA

  5. Chicago, IL

  6. Washington, DC

  7. Philadelphia, PA

  8. Seattle, WA

  9. Houston, TX

  10. Minneapolis, MN

What does this mean for us? Well, if you live in one of these places you obviously need to be especially careful with your bike security!

But it also suggests that wherever you live, if there’s lots of cyclists, there’ll be lots of bike crime. So if you look around you and see loads of people on bicycles, there’s probably loads of people you can’t see that want to steal those bicycles! So make sure you’re protecting your bike properly. This means buying the best bike lock you can afford and making sure you know how to use it.

The great thing is that getting a decent lock and using it properly will make a real difference. I came across an interesting article when I was researching this post. Essentially it illustrates how effective simple bike security can be…

The top ten US cities for bike theft list comes from Kryptonites own research. For years New York had topped the list as the very worst city in the US for bike crime. However, in recent years it has started to slip, settling at third in the last list that Kryptonite released. How come? Well, according to this article it was just a case of the people of New York wising up. They’ve realised that they need to spend a bit of money on a decent lock, learn how to secure their bike properly and lock it every time they leave it. It’s as simple as that.

And it’s as simple as that for everyone else too. Find a lock with the right level of protection for your area, make sure it suits your lifestyle, learn how to use it properly and use it every time you leave your bike. The chances are your bike won’t be stolen!