It's Tuesday night, and I'm off to see a gig in west London (Band of Horses, in case you're interested). But as I leave work, rather than getting excited about going to see one of my favourite new bands, I'm stressing about where I might chain up my bike, and whether it's going to be there when I get back. Indeed, my anxiety nearly drove me to leave my wheels at home this morning. After all, the chances of my bike getting nicked if I leave it chained up in Shepherd's Bush for four hours have got to be quite high. Why take the risk?
However, I'm feeling (perhaps naively) defiant. Why should I let a bunch of bored west London teenagers deny me the use of my bike? Surely I can outsmart them and find somewhere safe to leave it.
How about a manned car-park? There's a big NCP in the centre of Shepherd's Bush – perhaps I can chain it up in sight of the ticket attendant. Alas, after putting in a call to NCP, I'm told their car parks are no longer manned all day. And locking my bike in a quiet parking lot sounds like I might be asking for trouble.
So what about the police station? Perhaps I could chain it up out front. But having had my bike stolen by the police two months ago – and failed to get a straight answer about what law it is that lets them randomly confiscate bikes chained to railings – I'm not convinced I can rely on them either.
Maybe I could leave it at the bike racks outside the Tube station – somewhere nice and public, where thieves would surely feel too exposed to try hacking through my lock. Nice idea – until I read a post on the London Cycling Campaign website, which tells of how some kids ripped a bike off one of those very racks in broad daylight recently. Most passers-by didn't even blink – and those who did were too nervous to approach such a large gang.
So it looks like there's no option but to take my chances. Chain it in the open, and hope for the best.
While it might sound trivial, bike security (or lack of it) is a real problem. If the Government is serious about encouraging more people on their bikes – as they claim to be – it's crucial that they invest in secure bike-parking facilities all over the country.
In Finsbury Park, north London, they already have a manned bike-park – and a few more of these around the UK would be a good start. But there are things that could be done now for little cost. Why couldn't companies such as NCP provide secure, paid-for bike lock-ups in their car parks? I, for one, would be happy to pay a few pounds for peace of mind that my bike was safe.
London Mayor Boris Johnson promised that tackling bike theft would be one of his priorities. Let's hope he's as good as his word.
Oh, and was my bike still there after the Band of Horses gig? Or did some thief ride it off into the sunset? I'll tell you next week...