Bicycles have long been an easy target for thieves, and there are an estimated 300,000 stolen each year, equal to one bicycle being pilfered every 105 seconds. Insurers More Than tried to highlight this problem by leaving unsecured bicycles dotted around various locations in the UK to see how long it would take for them be stolen.
Defying its stereotype, Liverpool was revealed to be the safest place to leave a bicycle; it took three hours 52 minutes for the bait to be snatched there, compared to a mere 17 minutes for the one left at London Bridge station. "Our experiment has shown that it doesn't matter who you are or where you live, if you don't take the necessary precautions, it's only a matter of time before your bike is stolen," says Peter Markey, the marketing director for More Than.
The recession has forced many of us to turn to cheaper ways to travel. As a result, bicycle sales have soared by 22.6 per cent on last year and the average bicycle now costs £218, according to More Than. With the summer approaching and a greater number of expensive bicycles around, thieves will be on the prowl, but how can cyclists protect their wheels?
One way is insurance. Often, a bicycle will be automatically insured under a home contents policy, or the cover can be extended to include it. This will usually mean paying an additional premium but should still work out cheaper than taking out a separate insurance policy. With AXA, for example, a bicycle can be insured by adding just £19.49 to the annual home contents premium.
Check the terms and conditions to ensure that the cover is as comprehensive as possible. Some policies may pay out only if the bicycle is stolen or damaged at home or in the garden, in which case policyholders will need to pay for additional cover for contents outside of the home.
Insurers will usually insist on particular locks being used. Some policies even stipulate that cover will be provided only between certain hours. There may also be a limit on the amount that can be claimed so it is important to check that the full value of the bicycle can be recovered. Watch out for insurers that replace the bicycle only at a depreciated value.
With modern carbon-fibre frames and ultra-light wheels, bicycles can cost thousands of pounds so specialist insurance may be a better option for more serious cyclists.
"Adding bicycle insurance to an existing home contents policy can be a cost-effective way to cover your bike and it is definitely worth speaking to your provider to establish where you stand," says Steve Sweeney, the head of home insurance at Moneysupermarket.com. "However, I would urge anyone with a more valuable bike to go for a separate, stand-alone policy which provides more comprehensive cover."
Premiums typically start at about £50 per year but do come with additional cover for damage to the bicycle following an accident, cover while abroad and personal and third-party liability cover – protection against the costs of damage or injury to other people or vehicles. Some organisations, such as the London Cycling Campaign, offer members third-party liability insurance as part of the membership fee.
Cyclists should concentrate on making life as difficult as possible for potential thieves. Avoid leaving the bike in an isolated area, always lock it up with a good-quality steel lock and make use of bicycle racks wherever possible. Insurers also advise cyclists to put their bicycles in a locked garage or inside the house when not in use and to lock it through the frame to something immovable.
"With the average theft claim for bicycles costing £330, it's important you take vital security measures and having a good D lock could help to prevent your bicycle being stolen," says Lloyds-TSB's Leonie Edwards.
Cyclists can use an ultra-violet pen to put their postcode on the frame and should make a note of its serial number and take some photographs to give to the police if it is stolen. Bicycles can also be recorded and registered with a security service such as Bikeregister.com, which flags up stolen bikes on a nationwide database accessible by police.