Thursday, 13 August 2015

Bring back the Birch.

One nasty side effect of the increasing popularity of cycling in Belfast, is that bike theft is on the increase, seemingly 2 a day are stolen and even the anti cycling local media picked up on it, possibly due to a UKIP MLA picking up on it, no doubt the chance to have cycling linked however tenuously with UKIP was too good to pass up and they ran with it.

One of the points made, was that there was little secure parking for bicycles in Belfast, and this is true, a walk round the BT building, or up High Street reveals bikes chained to every tree, sign and lamp post, looking like strange 2 wheeled fruit ready for picking, usually by some scrote with a pair of bolt croppers. This, more than anything else shows the dearth of proper cycle parking in the city. Coming up to the launch of the Belfast Bikes, cycle hoops started appearing randomly around the city, on a day like today, they are pretty much chock a block with bikes and lets face it, they're not exactly secure at the best of times. But security aside, there are simply not enough of them and they are spread too thinly around the city centre, compare to most street furniture, they're not exactly expensive to buy or install, a quick google reveals a hoop designed to clamp onto an existing sign is £170, and can be fitted in minutes by a bloke with a socket and ratchet.

Of course a good lock is a must and I cringe every time I see a bike secured with a cable lock from Poundland, such locks can be cut with with pair of scissors, a tooled up thief will be sporting bolt croppers that will cut a cable lock or thin chain like it's made of butter, the only protection worth a damn is a strong, properly made D-Lock, with a cable as well securing the wheels, A couple of my bikes have bolt on wheels, much less inviting than QR wheels.

Another approach is the "beater" bike, a pile of crap that's so worthless that it's not worth stealing, this is quite common in London, and people will leave a bike chained up at the station so they can ride to work, some people just use a BSO for a commute, leaving the good bike at home, personally I like to ride nice bikes, so a beater ain't my style. Of course a bike not worth stealing is not immune from vandalism so you could well find it's been booted to hell by some idiot knocked back by the girl he's been buying drinks for all night.

One reason bike theft is attractive, is that it's a relatively low risk crime, plus it's relatively easy to fence the goods, and if caught, the offender will, unless he's on his 357th offence,  get a relatively light punishment, fortunately we, the internet savvy cyclists, have a better chance of tracking a stolen bike than the cops do.

So chaps and chapesses, all we can do is use a good lock and hope for the best! Just don't let it put you off!

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