Bedford’s train station has been found to have the second highest number of bike thefts in the country.
The BBC’s Local News Partnership, of which Bedford Independent is a member, collected data from British Transport Police, the Office of Rail and Road and Transport for London.
It found that in the past three years, out of 1,245 stations, Bedford had the second highest number of thefts with 188 bikes reported stolen, the station with the highest number of thefts was St. Albans at 262.
The number of thefts at Bedford equates to around two in every 100,000 people using the station.
Tony Holland, Head of Security at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), said: “This issue is affecting lots of places across the country as more station bike racks are installed to encourage people to cycle and boost sustainable travel.
“At Bedford we have stepped up staff patrols of the bike racks. As a result of this extra vigilance, local police apprehended three young men a fortnight ago.”
Across the UK, 16,725 bikes were stolen from train stations in the last three years.
1.7 million people, 3% of the UK population, now cycle every day, according to a British Attitudes Survey.
Cycling campaigners, charities and environmentalists are encouraging more people to leave their cars at home and use greener forms of transport.
The spike in popularity has been in part attributed to Team GB’s success at the 2012 Olympic Games and the subsequent heroics of British riders in the Tour de France.
The Cycling Campaign for North Bedfordshire (CCNB) carry out regular cycle counts at Bedford station.
Their data shows that around 10% of commuters arrive by bike with an average of 427 leaving their bike at the station and up to 50 more (with mainly folding bikes) taking them on the train.
Their studies suggest that already this year 12 bikes have been stolen.
“Commuters tend to be always in a rush in the morning and using two locks takes time especially when parking on the two tier cycle stands,” said CCNB’s Peter Blakeman.
And that, says Sam Jones, senior campaigns officer at the charity Cycling UK, is the reason why cyclists, rail operators and the police should be working together to combat this crime.
“The majority of these bicycles stolen from train stations are not just play things, but are undoubtedly being used as a vital link in someone’s journey to work or school,” says Sam.
“Bicycle theft might seem a relatively minor offence – and unfortunately is sometimes treated as such by some police forces – but it is most definitely not.
“It’s a low risk, high reward crime, with stolen bikes easily changing hands for hundreds or even thousands of pounds on the internet.”
Top ten stations for bike thefts across the UK
- St Albans City (262)
- Bedford (188)
- Fareham (152)
- Maidenhead (141)
- Surbiton (140)
- Chelmsford (139)
- Oxford (137)
- Birmingham New Street (134)
- Ashford International (130)
- Farnborough (Main) (128)
A spokesman for British Transport Police disagrees with the suggestion it’s not a priority for them, but they do say cyclists need to also do more to make their property less attractive to thieves.
“Unfortunately, bicycles remain a popular target for opportunistic thieves and British Transport Police works closely with train operating companies to improve security at cycle storage facilities throughout England, Scotland and Wales,” said the spokesperson.
“To help prevent crime, we urge cyclists to invest in good quality D-locks and ensure their bikes are securely marked and registered at www.bikeregister.com.
“Getting your cycle registered helps police trace recovered cycles and return them to their owners. Additionally, it makes your property less appealing to would-be thieves.”
GTR’s Tony Holland, reiterated this message: “Prevention is better than cure and bike owners have a responsibility to protect their property with high quality locks – we recommend two, with a D-lock clamping the frame to the rack.
“The British Transport Police, who also patrol our stations, help us with this message and carry out regular bike marking and advice sessions – the last two at Bedford in April.”
Peter Blakeman agrees: “CCNB’s advice is the same as other cycling organisations and that is to use more than one type of lock and lock both wheels and the frame to a solid structure.”
But Cycle UK’s, Sam Jones, says rail operators must also provide more safe places for bikes to be stored.
“With the Government investing £6.8m in new cycle–rail parking, it’s crucial that these new spaces are built to high standards, not just in terms of accessibility but also security,” said Sam.
“This means, undercover, with CCTV and close to the station itself, not in some murky car park corner where thieves could operate undetected.
“Bike theft is notoriously under-reported, which is one of the reasons it is not given the attention it deserves.
To help the police prioritise this crime, it’s important if you’re a victim you do report it to the police.”
GTR tell us that there will be future bike marking and advice sessions from the British Transport Police at Bedford station, with dates to be announced soon.
In the meantime, for advice on how to keep bikes secure, head to the British Transport Police’s website.
Or seek further advice from the CCNB at this website.
Words: BBC Local News Partnership and Paul Hutchinson