Bike thefts near record high as more than 5,500 stolen last year

Many bicycles recovered by gardaí could not be returned to owners as serial numbers not recorded

From the nearly 5,000 bicycles stolen in Dublin in the 16-month period, just 1,302 were recovered by gardaí. Photograph: iStock

From the nearly 5,000 bicycles stolen in Dublin in the 16-month period, just 1,302 were recovered by gardaí. Photograph: iStock


Bike thefts increased in the Republic last year despite the impact of the pandemic and periods of sustained lockdown, which saw most other crime types plummet.

Gardaí recorded 5,668 bike thefts last year nationally compared to the 5,253 bikes were reported as stolen in 2019.

It means last year’s thefts were close to the record high recorded in 2013 when 6,000 bikes were reported stolen. This was despite public mobility in towns and cities having plummeted last year. As most people worked from home the number of bikes locked on public streets was reduced. Between the start of this year and April 23rd an addition 1,177 bikes were stolen.

Gardaí said 2,139 stolen bikes were recovered by members of the force last year. However, many of them could not be returned to their owners as the serial numbers of the bikes had not been recorded. The Garda said only one in every five bike owners were able to provide their bicycle frame and serial number when reporting it stolen.

Gardaí have encouraged cyclists to spend between 10-20 per cent of the value of their bikes on two good quality locks and to always lock their bikes to an immovable object, or even a lawnmower when storing bikes in home garages or sheds.

Gardaí have also urged cyclists to take photos of their bikes and note the serial number and to email those images and details to themselves and also to store that content on the cloud. Cyclists should lock their bikes indoors whenever possible or lock them in a well lit area if outdoors is the only option.

Need to be vigilant

Crime prevention officer in the Galway Garda division, Sgt Michael Walsh, said while more people were cycling since the start of the pandemic, and this was a welcome development, cyclists need to be vigilant to prevent theft.

“If your bike is stolen report the theft to gardaí as soon as you can, and ensure you have your serial number to hand if you have it,” he said, adding photographs of recovered stolen bikes were regularly shared on the Garda website or on Garda divisional Facebook pages.

Figures for the 16-month period from January 2020 show There were 6,845 bicycles reported stolen between January 2020 and April 23rd this year, with 4,825 of those being stolen in Dublin.

There were 369 bicycles stolen in Cork since the start of last year, 227 in Galway, 249 in Limerick, and 176 stolen in Louth, according to the figures.

There were 146 bicycles reported stolen in Kildare, some 129 stolen in Wicklow, and 127 in Meath.

Minister of State James Brown, who is responsible for law reform and youth justice, said some suspects were known for their involvement in organised bike thefts and that these were being targeted in Garda operations, which included placing them under surveillance.

He added as the Republic emerged from the pandemic the Garda would resume offering its ‘marking’ service and it would be open to cyclists to bring their bikes along and have them marked for identification purposes in the event they were stolen and later recovered.

He added the Garda would also be using bait bikes - deliberately left at bike theft black spot locations and kept under surveillance - once normal policing resumed.

While cycling infrastructure was being improved and cycling generally became a more popular means of transport due to the pandemic, there was some downside to these developments.

“Inevitably this has also attracted thieves and unfortunately many cyclists have experienced the theft of very valuable bicycles,” he added, urging cyclists to follow the Garda’s crime prevention advice.

Give cyclists the space

Sgt Walsh also reminded drivers that cyclists were classified as “vulnerable road users” and that those behind the wheel needed to “exercise care when encountering cyclists”, whether they were cycling alone or in groups.

“Motorists are advised to give cyclists the space to cycle safely, particularly when overtaking them. Cyclists can be thrown off course by sudden gusts of wind or when having to avoid uneven road surfaces,” he said.

“It is equally important to check your mirrors regularly as a cyclist or other road user could be in your blind spot. Before opening the door of your ensure you check for passing cyclists. Drivers should also park legally and not disrupt bicycle lanes.”