Perhaps inevitably, I've become something of a cycling consultant in the offices of The Independent.
Last week, a colleague asked if I would advise locking his bike around Leicester Square for the evening while he went to the cinema. "Ooh," I said. "Bit risky." And that's the problem, isn't it – how many of us stop short of being truly liberated as cyclists because of a fear of having our bikes nicked?
I've never been a victim of bike larceny – touch wood – which makes me lucky in a city where 50 bicycles are pinched every day (380 bikes are stolen a day in the whole of England and Wales, according to Home Office figures). But that's not because I have a big scary lock or because I'm vigilant (I do and I am) but because I hardly ever leave my ride anywhere. My London bike lives in garages – at home and under my office – and when I'm out on my road bike it never leaves my sight.
And that's silly, isn't it – to let would-be thieves drive me on to the Tube any day I want to go somewhere after work. In many ways I'm fortunate – I know lots of people put off even getting a bike because they don't have anywhere safe to keep it. One London estate agent recently said demand for cycle storage was so high that it had the potential to boost prices.
Things are often trickier at work or the shops. Even when you're armed with a decent lock and manage to find a rack, all too often it's cluttered with the carcasses of abandoned rides, or sitting in a theft hotspot.
There are solutions. Anthony Lau is a young London architect who was inspired to put pencil to drawing board when his bike was lifted over a signpost (a similar fate befell David Cameron in 2008). His ingeniously simple Cyclehoop comprises two steel semi-circles that can be clamped permanently around lampposts or bollards to create a strong rack pretty much anywhere.
Cyclehoop has won awards as local authorities wake up to this cheap way to provide better parking for more cyclists. But it's not enough. Cycling is booming, but so is bike theft, and until proper commitment to decent storage by local councils, employers, landlords and developers can reassure us our wheels will still be there when we walk out of the cinema, London will never become the truly cycle-friendly city we long for.
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