Kick-starting the fight against bike theft

Mandatory frame listings would make it far harder to sell on stolen bikes

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The Independent Online

A few months ago I saw yet another tweet asking people to look out for a mountain bike stolen from my local trail centre. It wasn’t the fact that it was a £4000 bike or the fact that it happened round the corner that irked me - more the realisation that thefts like this will keep happening unless something is done. I’ve had two of my bikes stolen over the years: nationally, around 300,000 bikes are nicked every year. So I set up a campaign to try and throw a spanner in the work of thieves.

For a long time it's been obvious eBay is one of the easiest places to sell a stolen bicycle. You don’t have to try and flog it to an uninterested party, you don’t need to haggle and it is relatively anonymous. The logical part to address in this equation is anonymity. Every bike has a frame number which can be used as identification. It’s not a massive leap to think that if sellers were forced to add a bike’s frame number to their listings, it would be harder to hide a stolen bike and much easier for a victim to prove it was theirs.

It's a simple answer, or at least part of one, to a problem that hangs over cyclists around the country.

That was why I started a petition on to try and get eBay to make listing frame numbers mandatory. The response has so far been phenomenal - in just one week the petition got 5,000 signatures. Next week we’ll be ramping up the campaign and delivering the message directly to eBay.  

However this is just the tip of the iceberg if we want to tackle bike theft. Ideally the eBay listings would link to a databases to search and verify frame numbers. For it to work well every bike owner must take responsibility for getting their own bike on the database, and that's no easy task. The final step would be for retailers to become responsible for registration at the point of sale and the creation of bike passports.

Cycling is booming in the UK, so this is clearly a problem that needs to be tackled. Some bicycles can easily cost more than a second-hand car so why don’t they have the documentation? A passport system would be simple to create and hard for bike thieves to get round. It could also reduce bicycle insurance premiums and even entice others into cycling, as many would- be-cyclists say crime puts them off.

To many of us on the road, theft is so common it feels like a matter of "when" not "if". But there are things that can be done to change this and it's up to cyclists to make them happen. I’m always telling people if you want something to change in the world you start yourself. I’m glad I took my own advice last week. I hope this petition will help kick-start the fight back for cyclists against the bike thieves.