Website sales are fuelling a stolen bike boom according to a London Cycling Campaign survey of cyclists. To try and combat the problem LCC have just launched a major anti-theft campaign 'Beat the Thief'.
The campaign calls for the creation of a police anti-theft squad, tougher action against selling stolen bikes on websites, a code of practice for bike shops, tougher action against street markets, a central repository for recovered bikes, increasing secure parking provision and better education for cyclists.
LCC's survey results show that one in six cyclists says they've recognised a stolen bike on a website such as Gumtree and eBay, with Gumtree the main offender. Two-thirds of respondents name Gumtree as the site in question.
Bicycle theft has doubled in the UK since the mid 1990s, with reports showing that over half a million bikes are currently stolen every year. It seems to be a problem on the increase in the capital - the number of bikes reported stolen in London rose to 23,000 in 2009 - up 30 percent. However, police estimate that the true total of stolen bikes could be as high as 60,000, if unreported thefts are included.
The figures are surprising: 80 percent of cyclists say they've had at least one bike stolen, with one in ten people saying they've lost four or more bikes to thieves. Over 90 percent of people report never having had any of their stolen bikes recovered and 70 percent of people claimed the police made only a token effort to get their bike back. Two-thirds of cyclists report that they use their bike less often because of the risk of it being stolen.
Mike Cavenett, LCC communications officer, said: "Internet sales of stolen bikes are out of control. Imagine if this was stolen cars we were talking about? Something needs to be done about this theft epidemic."
It's not just a problem associated with London. In the US city of Portland, Oregon, Bryan Hance - a long time sufferer of multiple bike theft - and BikePortland.org editor, Jonathan Maus, established the Stolen Bicycle Registry listing bikes across the country.
Portland has the largest user base - 510 bikes were listed as stolen in 2009 from the Portland area. The site is now officially listed on the website of the Portland Police Bureau.
Since the inception of the registry in 2005, 6,270 bicycles have been listed as stolen nationwide. Of those, 164 have been marked as recovered, which is 2.6 percent. Not all those who find their bikes bother to return to the site to de-list them, so the number may be misleadingly low. But, Hance says, "It's a fantastic two percent, as there's usually a good story involved."