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In the Evening Standard today

16/03/2011

It took them a week to publish it, but…

London cyclist reunited with stolen bikes after blog readers trace them online

Re~Cycle a bicycle’s shipment to Namibia

10/03/2011

I got an email yesterday from the people at www.seethedifference.org. They’re making a film and raising money for a charity called Re~Cycle who want to send a container full of refurbished bicycles to Namibia.

Re~Cycle is a UK charity committed to providing cheap, sustainable transport in Africa. They know that bicycles offer poor people the best means to improve their lives, giving them opportunities to travel to work and school. Bikes can also be adapted to carry goods and passengers giving small scale farmers and traders the opportunity to reach customers further afield. They are also an invaluable resource for traveling health workers coping with the AIDS epidemic.

See the difference are asking cyclists to send in pictures to be included in their film. They’ll give £1 to the fund for every photo someone sends of themselves on their bike into their Facebook or Twitter. It’s really just that simply. They’ve got around 60 photos so far. If you’d like to Tweet them a picture, they’re @stdifference.

If you’d like to give real cash money to the fund, hit up the Re~Cycle website; there’s instructions on there about how you can donate. Simillarly, if you’ve got an old bike you think might be able to be re-purposed as someone’s transport in Africa, then they’ve got a page explaining how you can donate it here. They also need tools, bike tools, parts, consumables and tyres.

I didn’t know that the Abel and Cole depot in Wimbledon will accept bikes for Re~Cycle. I think I might be making a trip up there at some point as we have an old bike that might be just the job for them.

Helmet compulsion

08/03/2011

It looks like the misguided campaigners at Headway are once again bringing pressure to bear on the government to make helmet wearing compulsory for cyclists in the UK.

I rarely wear a helmet, although in the right circumstances (think racing, MTBing), I will sometimes choose to do so. I’m vehemently against compelling people to wear a helmet because it is not proven to reduce cycling injuries. Helmet compulsion threatens to reduce the current modal shift towards cycling as people see wearing helmet as just one more reason not to cycle. I’m not anti-helmet, I’m pro-choice.

The first battleground is going to be in Northern Ireland. There is currently a Private Members’ Bill in the Committee Stage which seeks to make wearing helmets compulsory for all cyclists in Northern Ireland. The Bill passed its second stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly following a vote on 31st January 2011, by two votes (20 to 18).

There’s more information to be found here:

http://wrongheaded.org.uk/you-can-help-today/
http://www.ctc.org.uk/desktopdefault.aspx?tabid=5480

For all the stats and none of the opinion, try this site:

http://www.cyclehelmets.org/

The CTC and Sustrans are lobbying against the bill and have organised a petition, which I ask you to sign. It’ll only take a couple of minutes:


http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/cyclehelmetbill

It’s already illegal for under 18s not to wear a helmet when cycling in Jersey. If this law is passed for adults and children in Northern Ireland, it’ll be Scotland next. Then England.

Bikes returned home

04/03/2011

It’s been the most excellent afternoon. The police have just left, having returned eight bicycles, posed for photographs to go in the Evening Standard, taken my statement, drunk tea and eaten cake. They’re cyclists – of course they eat cake.

Better than that, the police marked and registered all of the bikes with Bike Register left me more bike marking kits and shown me how to mark all our other steeds.

At some later stage, I’m going to write at length about just how important and easy this process is. Here’s a picture of the way you apply the mark to your bottom bracket shell or under your downtube:

The bikes are in surprisingly good condition. Julian’s Dolan has taken a bashing at some point. My Roberts is missing its IQ Cyo and we’re generally down on pedals and one or two other things. Someone’s peeled off the excellent ‘One Less Fixie’ sticker on my road bike…

What’s happened is nothing short of a miracle and we’re absolutely delighted to have our bikes back. Of course, there are an awful lot of people who have helped make it all happen. From the thousands of people who’ve read this blog, tweeted links or written about it on forums, to all the fabulous police and civilian staff who have worked on this case. I can’t thank all of you enough.

I’ve only got photographs of one of these officers, but he’s not shy of the camera and when you cut such a dash in your uniform, I can understand why.

This is Sergeant Titus Halliwell of the Metropolitan Police Cycle Task Force and he is made of WIN. If you are in the business of stealing bicycles or selling stolen bicycles in London, you run a very good chance of meeting him or one of his colleagues as they come through your front door with a warrant and a pair of handcuffs.

He WILL find you. He WILL arrest you.

bicycleslut.com

04/03/2011

Oh dear.  I went away on my holibobs, meaning  to renew this blog’s domain name and forgot all about it.

You can guess the rest.  You don’t want to go there any more…

Any suggestions for a new name?

Burglary result: all eight bikes found and an arrest made!

03/03/2011

I have some rather fantastic news about our recent burglary which although I’ve very much wanted to, I’ve not been able to write about until now.

Over the weekend, a number of readers of this blog contacted me (and posted in the comments – which I had to remove) to let me know that they’d found a number of our stolen bicycles on eBay. The screenshot above is of one of them, photographed in someone’s kitchen.

Seeing your own bicycles up for sale on eBay is a peculiar thing, particularly when you’re as much of a pair of bike nuts as we are. Most of these machines were absolutely unique. Many of them were lovingly put together from scratch by myself over a number of years. I’d built wheels, fitted headsets, changed components over and over again until they were just right. That’s what you do when you’re as completely into riding bikes as Julian and I are.

On realising we’d been burgled, the first thing that we did was to get in contact with the police. Although our local officers were absolutely brilliant, I’d had an email about the Met Police Cycle Task Force. Hoping that they might be able to help, I got in touch and emailed them details of the eBay pages, along with links to this blog to show what had gone missing. I’d not heard of them before, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. It turns out that they’re a newly formed, 30-strong team dedicated to cycle-related crime, launched by the Mayor last June.

They’re cyclists and unlike some regular police officers, they know their bikes. They know the difference between a Halfords BSO and a Roberts Transcontinental or an On One Pompino. They obviously realised that this was a splendid opportunity to catch a burglar and maybe get some bikes back and they couldn’t have been more helpful. Within not much more than a day, they’d been in touch with eBay and got hold of the seller’s details. They paid him a visit yesterday afternoon and discovered a house full of bikes; many of which were ours.

Right now, I don’t know how this bloke got hold of our bikes. He’s clearly a professional seller on eBay. The police told me that he was “very helpful” and that at least one of the stolen bikes was actually found at his local bikeshop, having some work done to it (a new bottom bracket was mentioned). It would appear that the bill was at least £150! It’s too early to say whether the seller was aware that they were stolen, but given that he was using his real name and address on the eBay auction, he’s either exceedingly naïve or profoundly stupid. I’m hoping it’s the former.

Although there’s obviously stuff they can’t talk about just yet, the police were able to tell me that with this man’s help, they’ve arrested someone on suspicion of burglary and at the time of writing, he remains in custody. No charges have been made against him at this time, but I think it’s a fair bet that he’s in a lot of trouble right now.

Unbelievably, it looks like we may be reunited with all our bicycles. The police have said that they’re planning on bringing them back to us tomorrow and getting statements from us.

There’s still a lot of work to be done on this, but right now I need to say how grateful we are to all the people who have helped us find these bikes and get them back. The thousands of people who have read this blog and passed it on via Twitter, Facebook and through cycling forums. People who’ve scoured Gumtree and eBay, looking for our bikes and in a number of cases, actually finding them. I’m so sorry I can’t email you all personally – you’ve been awesome.

We are also profoundly grateful to the Metropolitan Police. From the two officers who came to visit us within a couple of hours of reporting the burglary, to the very competent and helpful Scenes Of Crime Officer who was on the scene twenty minutes later, to local burglary team who went in and did what needed to be done and arrested the suspect once they had a name. My biggest vote of thanks though, goes out to the fabulous members of the Met Police Cycle Task Force. These guys are out there day in, day out, working for cycling and for cyclists in London, preventing and solving cycle crime.

It goes without saying that we’re going to be writing to the Chief Constable to name names and to express our gratitude, but having spoken to several of them over the last few days, I know that what they really want me to do is to spread the message of what the Cycle Task Force call the ‘Three Rs’. These are three simple steps that all cyclists should take if they want to maximise their chances of being reunited with their stolen bike:

  • Record – keep a record of the frame number, the make and any other marks that can identify your bike
  • Register – there are a number of websites where you can register the details of your bike, including any distinguishing features/frame numbers etc.
  • Report – if your bike is stolen then make sure that you tell the police. Bike theft is a significantly under-reported crime. Reporting it enables police to check databases and contact you if the bike is recovered

So if you do anything cycling related this weekend, do yourself a favour and make sure that your bike is documented. Photograph it, note down the frame number and seriously consider having it marked so that you can prove it’s yours. Then get yourself online and register it with a website like www.immobilise.com so that if you’re ever unfortunate enough to be a victim of theft or burglary, you can report it.

And if you’ve got a bike theft problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can use the help of…

cycletaskforce@met.police.uk

Walking to work

03/03/2011

We moved house at the weekend and I’m now living less than two away from my office. I’ve not been able to walk to work since I was a teenager with a Saturday job, so it’s something of a revelation to be able to get to work on Shank’s pony in half an hour.

Given that the bikes that weren’t taken in our recent burglary are currently buried behind the EU cardboard box mountain in our new garage, it kind of made sense to try the whole walking thing for a while. So on Monday morning, I left the house with Julian and walked into work, leaving her at the tube station, which conveniently enough is on my way.

I’ve got a really lovely route into the office. It’s through some quiet streets and across a fabulous and surprisingly large local park area. I’ve been taking the opportunity to listen to some good music and stroll along at a lively pace.

So is this the end of my posts about cycle commuting? No, I don’t think so – as soon as we’re settled in, I’ll definitely be on my bike again. I’ll probably end up riding in the long way and incorporating some training into my commute. Given that we have good showers, I’m also going to start running to work well.

A real difference, now I’m this close, is that I can do what I’ve been wanting to do for ages; cycle to work in normal clothes. Even with a big hill in the way, I’m not likely to break a sweat in less than two miles, so unless I’m doing a big loop, I’ll be abandoning the lycra for cycle clips and a sensible bike.

Which is a nice thought. Maybe I need a mufti bike?

Something with hub gears, a wicker basket and a chainguard?

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