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Manchester Bike Theft Hotspots Revealed

David Blake on the most likely city centre spots to have your bike pinched

Written by . Published on January 10th 2014.

Manchester Bike Theft Hotspots Revealed

I DON’T own a bicycle. It's still too painful.

But an ever increasing number of people do. Cycling has recently overtaken football as Britain's third most popular participation sport (1st swimming, 2nd athletics (do you mean jogging? Ed?)) with over two million adults now regularly riding.

Which makes you wonder how anyone manages to cycle through any of the Piccadillys at all without being Grand Theft Auto’d off their bicycle.

Boardman, Hoy, Wiggo, Pendleton, Froome, Cavendish, Boris, that 'pleb' minister, they've all done their bit for cycling. The 2014 Tour de France's stint in Yorkshire is expected to attract four to five million spectators over three days. 

How did it become so popular? Well, the Olympics mostly. And increased commuter frustration at chewing the hair on the back of each other's heads. One thing's for sure though. There's a lot more bikes on the street. All ripe for the plucking.

Bikes in Piccadilly GardensRipe for the plucking?

I once felt the sting of the stolen bike. I was thirteen, my bike, a brand new black and orange Carrera, was the business. My schoolmates thought I was the dogs. The most flash gift I’d ever received, gone, well, in a flash. Pinched from outside a Cleethorpes corner shop in under twenty seconds. Tears. Lesson learnt.

I’ve never owned a bike since. Like a recently squashed dog it’s still too raw. Perhaps if I’d had the Police crime mapping service I’d have known those bike-lifting bastards hunted by that corner. Unfortunately, the internet thing hadn’t yet erupted, we’d only just started sending each other phallic symbols constructed of ‘=’ and ‘8’ via Nokia 3210s.

Manchester Crime MapManchester Crime Map

This crime mapping tool has been around for years, but we still can’t stop playing with it. It’s the rubix cube of statistics. Handy too. Street specific crime statistics right at your finger-ends.

Did you know, for example, that in September 2013 there were two reported incidents of weapon possession in Leftbank, Spinningfields. No you didn't. Unless it was you.

Crime mapping (if that's your thing) helps people make informed decisions on where to live, where to play, where to avoid in the darker hours, where not to leave cars, where to keep mobiles pocketed and the best spots to pick up some drugs. All narrowed down to individual streets - it could make you stop in all day. Clever stuff though (although the police do concede that incidents are not on-the-dot accurate, more in the region of).

Our only gripe being that they take a month or so to publish. It’s as though the police have better things to do. Like this:

Since May 2013 the online service has been detailing reported bicycle thefts specifically. According to the Manchester city centre crime mapping tool, in the period from the beginning of May 2013 to the end of November 2013 there have been 373 bicycle thefts around the city centre (the police have told us the figure is 340, but at the time of writing crime mapping reports 373), averaging 53 a month and accounting for 3.7% of all reported crime in the city centre. This gave us an idea…

Where is the worst area in Manchester city centre to leave your bike? Where is it most likely to get nicked? Where do the bikenappers prowl?

Well, we’ve spent hours chewing over the past seven months of numbers to tell you just that. The results are in (Hint: Try to avoid the Piccadillys).

(By their own admission, the police crime mapping service is not uniformly precise. So the areas we’ve worked to are differential in size and loosely based around a significant place eg. Spinningfields or Victoria Station. We understand the inherent variables, the Spinningfields area, for example, is around five times the size of the Albert Square area.)

Reported thefts are in the seven month period from the beginning of May 2013 to the end of November 2013.


  1. Piccadilly Gardens – 38
  2. Piccadilly Station – 30
  3. Market St East/Debenhams/Church St – 30
  4. St Peter’s Square – 26
  5. Spinningfields/Quay St/Bridge St – 23
  6. King St/Brown St/Pall Mall – 20
  7. Central Coach Station/Sackville Gardens – 20
  8. Universities North Campus/Oxford Rd/Chester St – 20
  9. Marks and Spencer/Selfridges – 17
  10. Albert Square – 15
  11. Victoria Station - 15

So there you have it. Seemingly then you’d have to be foolish to leave your bicycle anywhere near a Piccadilly ‘Something’. Unless you're in a rush. Or believe in the essential goodness of humanity. 

A rough 'Where Not To' guide to bike parkingA rough 'Where Not To' guide to bike parking

If you consider Market St East/Debenhams/Church St to lay within the boundaries of Piccadilly Gardens – which it does – then a whopping 68 bicycle thefts have taken place around this area in the past seven months. If we add on thefts from both Piccadilly Station (30) and Piccadilly Basin (13) we reach a hefty 111. Nearly a third of all bicycle thefts in the city centre.

Inspector Richard Byatt from the North Manchester Division did give us some good news though:

“We have had massive reductions in bike theft in the city centre over the last six months with a 24% reduction in this area of crime between June and December 2013 compared to the previous six months.

"This is thanks to a clampdown on cycle thieves in the city centre. The police have also been providing cyclists with safety advice and bike marking services to ensure that recovered bikes can be returned to their rightful owner. Cycle Hubs are a safe way to park your bike in the city centre and we would always advise use off a robust lock ensuring both wheels are secured.”

So police figures mark a 24% reduction in bike thefts from the first six months of 2013 to the last six months. Good. But we don't have access to those first six months figures. What we can see though is an increase of 55% from the beginning of September to the end of November 2013. Let's hope that's a blip not a trend.

(Click here to add text)Manchester City Centre bike thefts 2013

How we compare (City Centre, May-November 2013) :

Manchester city centre: 373

Salford East: 193

Liverpool: 171

Leeds: 210

We asked Greater Manchester Police why the Manchester figure was so much higher. A spokesperson said: "We can't comment on the higher figures in Manchester compared with other cities because there are a number of factors which could affect this."

True. Population, commuters, number of cyclists, city centre area, stickier fingers. But 373 seems high in comparison, more than twice as many bike thefts than Liverpool city centre?

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And then there were twoAnd then there were two

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16 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Another TimJanuary 10th 2014.

Oh the sorry confusion between sport cycling and getting from A to B. I ride my bike every day because it gets me around Manchester more quickly and cheaply and conveniently than driving, but it's really not participation sport. By your definition the most popular participation sport would actually be motorsports because you can include all the car commuters. This is what allows Manchester councils to harp on about how much they spend on cycling when it's nearly all velodrome, and nothing to help kids get to school safely on a bike. bicycledutch.wordpress.com/…/…

Another TimJanuary 10th 2014.

Oh, and the hubs are a silly waste of money that should be spent on infrastructure, because they have limited opening hours and are in limited locations. It's just easier to kit out a building with a few lockers and showers than to design a safe integrated network where people can cycle without feeling like they'll get run over every other minute.

AnonymousJanuary 10th 2014.

That video is fantastic, floor the thieving oik!

AnonJanuary 13th 2014.

Enjoyed this. Havent even got a bike

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2014.

Some figures here a bit meaningless without stats on how many bikes were parked there.

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2014.

Couldn't they have thrown that toe rag into oncoming traffic

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2014.

great video

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2014.

Great video. They should screen it in every Post Office so that the thieving layabout scum see it when they're waiting to cash their giros.

Kevin PeelJanuary 14th 2014.

We're going to be getting more cycle parking and storage in the city centre in the coming months so I'd be keen to hear from cyclists how we can make it as secure as possible. Get in touch on cllr (dot) k (dot) peel @ manchester.gov.uk.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Dominic DempseyFebruary 23rd 2014.

Read my post below on this feed... Some ideas there.. May not all be practical since I don't know your budget allocation for this but at least I'm not just moaning without offering some solutions...

NeilWoodward11January 15th 2014.

Good piece this. Well written and an important topic. Manchester should do far more for cyclists. Although it rains a lot it is flat here, and therefore brilliant for commute style cycling. Oxford Road (and Rusholme in particular) is a nightmare and needs sorting out. Bus and Taxi drivers should have to ride the route before being licensed.

Weby72January 17th 2014.

That police map is bobbins - doesn't show my own personal crime (victim) stat, when some low-life put through my windows to nick a plastic bloody shoe shine and the car manual/service book from the glove compartment. I hope the scumbag O-D's.

Dominic DempseyFebruary 23rd 2014.

My friend has been borrowing my bike for a couple of months whilst she gets back on her feet in terms of steady employment so that she can purchase a bike of here own. Last Tuesday (18/02/14) she left the bike locked up at the bike park outside the main entrance to the GMEx across from the rear entrance of the midland hotel (windmill street)... She left the bike at approximately 10 am and returned for the bike at approximately 8 pm... So a 10 hour time slot... Sounds a bit careless at first but when you think about it, if one was working in town, then leaving a bike for 10 hours would be fairly standard I suppose... Anyway, she locked the bike up (using a good quality cable lock (+£50 worth from halfords )) in a recognised bike park in a reasonably busy location in terms of pedestrian and road traffic... When she returned at approximately 8 pm the bike was missing... someone was able to take this bike ridiculously easily using what I can only assume to be a large set of bolt cutters (I deduce this by the way they sliced through the cable lock - I'm a mechanical engineer of some 30 years experience and I do know my cutting methods)... I would have thought that a pair of 36" bolt cutters would render a person slightly conspicuous and could be considered to be "going equipped" but I will not linger on this point... However, I receive a final kick in huge teeth with regard to the probable lack of CCTV footage (despite a large number of cameras located around the area) so no chance of identifying the culprits then... This actually upsets and worries me more than the loss of the bike if I'm being honest... I am a tad upset about the bike but to be fair I earn a reasonable salary and can replace it within a month or so if I really need to... This isn't really what concerns me... I find it worrying that this could quite easily happen to someone who is earning minimum wage, struggling to make ends meet, and is solely reliant on a bike as their main form of transport due to the cost of public transport... Thieves don't tend to means test people prior to help to helping themselves to their possessions in my experience... But what I find truly astonishing is why is there isn't CCTV permanently active on all the bike parks around the city?... The police know that bike theft is a huge problem... It seems like a no brainer to me... Why are bike parks not gated/fenced off with access requested form a council run central source (they could monitor the cameras as well - got to have lean processes) in order to park ones bike in them and a code given to retrieve the bike upon the owners return?... Another concern is the knowledge that there is that there is an active policy in place from the council to pedestrianise the city centre and to encourage more people to leave their cars at home and travel into the city by bike... But won't this be like open season for the bike thieves providing them with greater opportunity and choice?... Like I say, I fortunate enough that this crime won't affect me too much (I still want them caught and publicly flogged if possible) but I am concerned for others I have to say...

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 28th 2014.

Bloody nora. Yes, crime is bad, Dominic. We don't need your life story.

Dominic DempseyFebruary 23rd 2014.

By the way, my bike is a carrera fury... Matt black rear section and silver'ish front section (I'm colour blind so forgive me for that description) and it has hill climb bars, adjustable handlebar stem and spd one sided pedals... Pretty non-standard... Anyone catches site of it please let me know... I will buy you a meal from your preferred fast food outlet for your troubles :-)

City LadMay 28th 2014.

I think manchecter police should post all the CCTV footage of bike thiefs they have online name and shame them

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