bike with deeper lock

The 2 reasons why stealing bikes will be big money in the future

In our last blog, we mentioned 2 questions a thief might ask when considering a target. Firstly, how easy is it to sell, and secondly, how much can I sell this item for? Having dealt with liquidity (or ease of sale) already,  let’s now turn our attention to value, and 2 big reasons why stealing bikes is going to be more and more rewarding for criminals in the future.

A crime that doesn’t fit the norm

Traditionally, the relatively low value of stolen bikes has kept bike crime in check. Even then, the sometimes complete absence of risk still made stealing bikes an abnormally common crime. This brilliant graphic by priceonomics shows how the risk / reward equation is completely warped when it comes to stealing bikes.



As you can see, compared to other types of theft like stealing cars and phones, the risk vs reward equation doesn’t add up. The lack  of risk in some cases makes it a unique, and widespread, form of crime. But at least the low value of bikes will keep the problem down, right?

The bad news is …

And the bad news is that today, bike crime is moving even further off the curve (and in the wrong direction). That’s because, while the risk remains the same (very low), the revenue from the stealing bikes is going up. Why?

Reason 1 – Bikes are more valuable

Bikes are precious, not just for the personal bond we develop with them, but also increasingly because of their high value. Whether its aesthetics, comfort, speed, or a combination of all three that we’re after, the fact is we’re paying more for our bikes than ever before.

According to the European Cyclist Federation, the average price of bikes bought in German in 2015 was €557. The figure was even higher in Denmark, and in Europe’s biggest cycling country of all, the Netherlands, it was an incredible €914. That’s over a thousand dollars.

And the same is happening in the US. A recent report showed the price of imported bikes in the US rising by more than 3 times the rate of inflation.

Now, think back to the graph by pricenomics. When they compiled their report, the value of a stolen bike was considered to be much lower than that of a TV or smartphone. But, as plus $1000 bikes become a regular site on our city streets, the potential reward of stealing a bike is now huge, and it’s only going to get higher.

Reason 2 – Cycling is becoming more popular

As both individuals and cities look for alternative modes of transport which are eco-friendly and can tackle congested streets, cycling is unsurprisingly becoming much more popular. And huge infrastructure projects like Seattle’s half a billion dollar investment, or London’s cycle superhighways, are making cycling a realistic transport option for more and more people. That’s the good news.

The not so good news is that this is set to further distort the relationship between risk and reward when it comes to stealing bikes. That’s because in places where more people use bikes as their main mode of transport, the value of bikes also tends to increase. It makes sense when you think about it – if you’re going to be spending more of your time on your bike, investing in a nicer bike is only natural.

This explains why the average selling price of a bike in the Netherlands is so high – 35% of people in the Netherlands use cycling as their main means of transport. The global market for bikes is set to increase by almost 38% by 2024.

The e-bike revolution

And that’s not all. The rise of the e-bike adds a whole new dimension to the reward question with bike theft.

Did you know that around 35 million (yes, 35, not 3.5) e-bikes were sold in 2015, and that there are now an estimated 200 million in use worldwide? We couldn’t believe it either. E-bikes are already big news.

Now, consider the fact that most entry level e-bikes retail at between $1,000 – $2,500, and an expensive one can set you back more that $20,000 (or how about this beauty for $80,000). Prices like this are making bike theft a serious business.

Industry experts forecast that there will be 2 billion e-bikes in use by 2050, and e-bikes are already massively outselling electric cars. They may well be the urban transport mode of the future.

Low risk, high reward

Considering these trends, we are entering ‘perfect crime’ territory. When revenue from bike crime was low, it was already a disproportionally popular form of crime. They are growing, and could reach very high levels very soon. So, what will bike crime levels be like then?

What do you think?

What’s happening to the value of bikes on the street where you are? Are e-bikes becoming a common in your area? How should we address bike crime as the value of bikes increases? Write us a comment on our Facebook page and share this blog with your fellow cyclists to get the discussion started.