CYCLISTS are striking back against bike thieves with a 21st century solution to an age old problem.
Cycle Oxford, a community cooperative of cyclists, is tapping into the popularity of internet social networking site Twitter to post photos of bikes stolen in Oxford in an attempt to make it harder for thieves to sell them on.
The group has created a new computer and smart phone application, or ‘app’, which will help tech-savvy cyclists in the city keep track of which bikes are being stolen and from where.
Dan Harris, of Cycle Oxford, said the campaign had been prompted by a spate of high-value bike thefts from sheds and garages this month.
He said: “This past week has been extraordinary. I’ve been in the Oxford bike trade for 10 years and I’ve never known such a string of bike thefts out of sheds like this.”
Already more than 30,000 people have viewed one of the photos of stolen bikes after the group publicised the theft through Twitter and photo-sharing site Flickr.
Mr Harris said: “We have better networks in some areas than the police do, so this is a modern solution for the problem. It is ‘people power’.”
He believes the group is the first to come up with the idea, adding: “We invented this for ourselves.”
With more than 1,500 Twitter followers and 200 people downloading the mobile phone application in the first week of its launch, bike theft victims are hoping it will help to recover their stolen bikes.
Cherwell School pupil Ted Bennett, who spent six months and £750 building a fixed-gear bike, discovered it stolen on January 4.
The 17-year-old said the bike had been locked-up and was behind a locked gate at his home in Cavendish Drive, New Marston.
His sister’s bike, worth £500, had also been taken.
He said: “I’m really gutted because I spent time and money building that bike.
“To an extent, the thieves would have had to know what they were looking for.”
Mr Harris said it was up to cyclists to use their own contacts to spread the word about thefts.
“Hopefully the ‘app’ will be a one stop shop for people to find out what’s going on,” he said.
“It puts everything in one place so that people can have a quick look and get all of the details about thefts.”
Sgt James Blackmore, from the Oxford City Centre neighbourhood team, said: “We welcome this initiative and hope that it helps the police neighbourhood team in its efforts to tackle cycle theft. It should also make it harder for thieves to sell on stolen cycles.”
The application is free to download and the Cycle Oxford team will upload photos and details of stolen bikes through Twitter, Facebook and by email.
Contact the group on Twitter @CycleOxford