One of the strands of the National Cycling Strategy is cycle security, recognising that a deterrent to cycling is the very high level of cycle theft. The insurance industry naturally has an interest in this area since it pays out on rather too many claims each year. There were well over 1,000 cycle thefts in Cambridge last year, about which we wrote at the time. The Strategy envisages a bike registration system where providers of databases are registered with the police.
However, Norwich Cycling Campaign is already up and running with a registration scheme. They have a grant from Norwich’s Safer Cities initiative and Norwich Union, which allows them to employ a manager part time and data-entry job experience. The scheme has been running about four months now. It has around 300 bikes registered, and has already had a major success: when one stolen bike was spotted in a shop by its owner, checks with the database revealed another was also stolen and the owner is being prosecuted. That meant that two of the three registered bikes that have been stolen since the scheme began have been recovered.
I explored the idea of using the same database and free-post address for registration with Norwich Cycling Campaign, and there would appear to a lot of benefit in running a combined scheme. As well as sharing resources, it would also mean cycles that turn up in the other town can be traced. We would need to liaise with cycle shops and Cambridge police, and raise some money to cover the costs of maintaining a much bigger database, extra post and so on.
There are several avenues we can explore for funding: Cambridge has its own safer city scheme; there is also a Local Agenda 21 budget starting next year; and the County Council’s Travelwise scheme might be approached for funding.