Bike theft is rife among students, with more than 25% falling victim during their years at university according to a new survey.
Although many people fear burglars targeting their student homes while away at university, bike theft is actually more common, according to Marks & Spencer Money. Its survey found 14% of students have been burgled while at university while 22% of students have had their bikes stolen.
Bike theft is a growing crime in the UK, with an estimated 540,000 bikes stolen during 2008/09.
Steve Price, head of general insurance at M&S Money, says: “Cycling has grown in popularity in recent years among green-minded students who want to save money and do their bit for the environment. Unfortunately, bikes are a prime target for thieves and cyclists should take basic security steps to decrease the risk of becoming a victim.”
Despite the risks, just 16% of students take out insurance to cover their possessions during their studies. M&S says many may not need to take insurance at all, because they might be covered under their parents’ home insurance policy.
However, even if they are, this might not include cover for bikes.
Protect your bike...
There are two main ways to protect yourself from falling victim to bike thieves: by making sure you keep your bike secure at all times and by covering yourself with insurance.
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says victims of bike theft may be able to claim on their home and contents policy, as long as this extends to personal belongings outside the home. But he warns that insurers would need to be satisfied that victims have taken adequate security precautions to prevent theft.
In terms of security, it is well worth investing in one (if not several) heavy-duty bike locks, which can be bought online or in all good cycle shops. When locking your bike, try to make sure it is secured to an immovable object through the frame and the wheel. The bike lock should always face down towards the pavement, as this makes it harder to pick.
Generally speaking, you should also try and lock your bike in special parking racks, which tend to be scattered across city centres and in supermarket car parks, for example. Busy and well-lit areas are less likely to be targeted by thieves.
When at home, try and keep your bike chained up in a shed or at least hidden away so it is not on view to opportunistic passersby.
You should also ensure your bike has security marking, such as a serial number, to deter thieves. An ultraviolet marking pen can also be used to mark your postcodes on the frame, so it can be easily identified by you or the police.
As well as keeping your bike secure – even if you only leave it for a few minutes – you should also think about insurance. Many home and contents policies will cover bikes as an add-on or as part of your personal belongings cover. This may or may not include theft when the bike is away from your home, so make sure you check your policy carefully.
MORE TH>N, for example, covers you for bike loss or theft when away from the home up to £1,500 per bicycle as standard on its home contents insurance.
You can also buy specific insurance to cover your bike, although make sure it isn’t already covered by your home contents policy first.
Price adds: “Before taking out a separate policy students should check whether their parents’ home insurance policy covers their property when at university.”
Take a photo of your bike and keep the purchase details safe - you may need these if you have to claim on your insurance later on.