It’s summer which means it’s also peak time for bicycle thefts. More cyclists are out n about, whether it’s commuting in gridlocked city centres or just having a weekend sportive on some local B roads. So the opportunities are there for bike thieves and much of this is now targeted and organised.
For example one Brompton rider had to fight off moped riding robbers using an angle grinder in London recently. Another hotspot is the commuter railway station. These are also being targeted as many commuters lock their bikes up all day. In fact the issue of secure bike parks is a big problem generally across Western Europe, as it’s all to easy for hooded thieves to use bolt croppers and portable angle grinders to attack locks. By hiding their faces the local/station CCTV is rendered useless of course.
According to the European Cyclists Federation some 1.3 million bikes are stolen annually across Europe. Much of the theft comes down to a lack of secure bike parking. A thin steel hoop or rail in the pavement is useless, it’s simple to release a £3000 bicycle in 60 seconds. The solution is surely cycle lockers, both on-street and inside existing car park infrastructure where CCTV is already in place.
For a start parking in a locker means the thief cannot spot the more valuable makes of bike, or something that they are stealing to order. Councils are great at installing cycle lanes, signage, plant pots, chicanes, traffic lights etc but hopeless at providing safe parking areas in city centres once cyclists get there to work or shop.
CARGO FLEET COVER
For inurers or brokers looking to get into the cargo bike or “last mile” delivery market, it’s important to understand how thieves operate, whether the Police are interested in catching thieves and the personal injury risks to delivery riders too. In theory, cargo bike delivery of online goods in urban areas is much greener, although companies will still need vans to deliver daily packages to the homes of delivery riders. But the reality might be that these local cargo bicycle operations are an easy target for thieves who wish to steal Amazon, eBay, Vinted or other packages from vulnerable delivery riders – especially women.
Electric bicycles are getting cheaper and more varied. Most are still sit-up-straight commuters or mountain bike frames with a battery, but there are more bespoke creations, plus the bicycles that actually look like motorcycles or lightweight scooters. Most insurance brands are familiar with the Council backed schemes on e-scooters and e-bikes, which include insurance. But reaching the wider public who actually OWN an e-bike, rather than rent it, is proving difficult.
The situation is that many householders THINK their bicycle is covered on their house insurance, but if it’s expensive- it isn’t. The opportunity is there for specialist brokers to sell cover as an embedded product at the point of purchase, or an upgrade to house or vehicle insurance.
Some info from UK brand Ripe offers further insights into the market and bicycle theft ratios for e-bikes vs conventional pedal cycles;
- E-bikes vs non-electric bikes:
- Claim rate for e-bike theft: 1.96%
- Claim rate for non-electric bike theft: 2.84%
- In terms of relative risk means you are 31% less likely to make a claim if you have insured an e-Bike
- This trend excludes London where the Claim Rate for e-Bikes is greater than for non e-Bikes and has been since 2021.
- E-bikes: the Claim Rate (the number of claims / number of polices sold) in London tends to be much higher than the rest of the UK
- Overall since 2019 London Claim rate = 6.09%
- Overall since 2019 Rest of the UK Claim Rate = 1.81%
- Therefore you are 3.36 times more likely to make a claim in London compared to the rest of the UK
- Highest Claim Rate by age group is amongst the 26-35 cohort (4.25%).
The data highlights the gulf between London and the rest of the UK as regards e-bike thefts and this is why IE mag thinks that the scaling up of cargo bike delivery services will simply lead to massive theft claims, some violent attacks too. That said there are many parts of Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, Bradford, Glasgow and many other cities where delivering online shopping electronics, pharmacy items, food or many more goods using this method is pretty high risk.
Paul Williams, CEO of Ripe, comments on bike theft:
“With the return of summer sunshine and the Tour de France, many of us are out cycling. However, both regular and seasonal cyclists should stay alert to theft, especially in London, which faces the highest insurance claims rate in the country. Cyclists in the city are over three times more likely to make a claim reporting bike theft, compared to the rest of the UK. Young people are the most common victims, with the 26 – 35 age group making the highest number of claims.
“Likewise, new owners of electric bikes should be particularly cautious. E-bikes continue to soar in popularity and now account for nearly half of Ripe’s new bike insurance policies. These bikes tend to be more expensive than traditional bicycles, and our data shows that the average value of insured bikes has increased by 51%, making them an expensive target for thieves. Consequently, e-bike theft claims rates have overtaken non-electric bikes in London, suggesting owners face a greater risk of theft. Responsible bikers should not be discouraged, but remain aware and informed of the risks. Cyclists should make sure they have the right bike lock and consider taking out specialist cycling insurance as they take to the streets in the summer months.”
TAILIORING COVER TO PERCEIVED RISKS
As the WEF war on car ownership continues it’s likely that more adults will be forced to consider using e-bikes as a cheaper mode of transport inside an LTN or 15 minute city. Lots of people who aren’t really interested in cycling itself, are going to find themselves forced onto two wheels, in all weathers. Some carrying children.
From an insurer point of view perhaps there are lessons to be learned from specialists like Laka, Bikmo, Sundays or Velosure. They offer separate cover on the battery, which is good as they can cost £300-£500 to replace. There is basic theft cover and aggravated theft, with a range of options on top, which includes things like physio treatment costs and payouts on road rage. Family cover is another feature worth noting for those who ferry small children in plastic seats on e-bikes.
Velosure also operate an affiliate programme, so retailers can sell the cover and earn some commission. For riders who own sports or racing bikes, there is a step system on accessory cover, from £250 to £1000.
Bikmo offers different levels of cover too, with specific medical and dental protection worth £6000 on its Plus level product. It also has £2m of public liability in there as well, and 20K of accident coverage. It’s something that lots of people don’t think about when buying an e-bike, but the ongoing legal, medical and other expenses following an “off” can leave a huge dent in household income for months afterwards.
Giving people the options to set their own risk level, on any bicycle insurance, is probably going to win more policyholders in the long term, as those living in the suburbs or rural areas feel that they can cope with more basic cover. They will also have a different usage profile than urban commuters locked up in their LTN zones too, which may offers insurers a lower risk profile. Gathering data on actual rider usage by phone app will be essential in pricing risk.