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RTE Prime Time investigation finds e-bike ‘stolen and resold within two and a half hours’

Stock image© Getty Images/EyeEm

Paul HylandIndependent.ie

An investigation carried out by RTÉ’s Prime Time has found that it took just hours for an electric bicycle to be stolen and then resold in Dublin City.

As part of the sting, a brand-new e-bike was locked, with a cable lock, at a bike stand on the corner of Parnell St and King’s Inn St.

Some 40 minutes after the bike was locked, just after 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a gang tried to pull it free. They were unsuccessful on the first occasion but returned 30 minutes later. With lookouts posted on the corners of the street, two members of the gang aggressively pulled the bike and broke the lock within seconds.

A tracker was fitted to the bike, and it was taken to the across the city and stopped in along the Tolka river in Ballybough. It’s understood the bike was resold in this area, and later moved to a residence in East Wall – completing it’s journey from being locked securely to resold in two and a half hours.

The issue of bike thefts is a growing concern for cycling groups and environmentalists, and is seen as a barrier to encouraging more people to choose bicycles over carbon emitting transport options.

The Dublin Cycle Campaign estimates that 20,000 bikes are stolen each year, with only a quarter of thefts reported to gardaí.

The campaign’s spokesperson Úna Morrision said: "We know that, of people whose bikes are stolen, 42pc of those people – that’s nearly half – either stop cycling, never cycle again or reduce how much they cycle.”

Bike thefts have become so common, that some thieves are comfortable stealing in broad daylight, according to Green Party Councillor Janet Horner.

Ms Horner recently took a picture of a bike thief on a busy Dublin Street and sent it to gardaí.

"I think what I find so frustrating is how brazen it is to do this in full view of people, with the assumption that there is such a lack of interest in the city or lack of care for this kind of crime, that no one will do anything," she said.

Marius Judickas, owner of 360 Cycles in Clontarf, referred to cable locks as “coffee shop locks” and said they are only useful at delaying a potential thief by up to 20 seconds.

He said chain locks are heavy but good, and the best are U-locks, but they can damage the frame of a bike if someone attempts to bend the lock with the frame.

“The lock will not give up, but the bike will be damaged – sometimes to a state beyond repair," he said.

Mr Judickas said thanks to the increased limits of the Government’s Bike-to-Work scheme, there has been an explosion in the sale of electric bikes, however, they are also the number one target for thieves.

“When they are stealing the bike, if it is a basic bike, it costs only €200 or €300. There is not much profit in it, but in the electric bikes, you are in four-digit figures – and it’s a much higher return on those bikes if they can sell it on the black market," he added.

Student Aaron McNiffe is one of those who invested in an e-bike only to have it stolen from an underground car park at his university campus. Mr McNiffe decided to swap his diesel car for the bike, to reduce his "carbon footprint”, but he said the Government needs to do more to protect bike owners and encourage active travel.

"These bikes are expensive. You'll find that most people cycling – they're doing it because they want to actually commute in a more sustainable way," he said.

"At the end of the day, this is going to help the Government actually hit their carbon reduction targets. So there has to be a bit of give and take. They have to support the people that actually want to make a difference, too."


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