Community project back on track after bike theft

When a successful community project in Hammersmith and Fulham had its bikes stolen, it could have been the end of the cyclepath

However, thanks to help from LCC and the support of cycling friends in London, the project was soon back on track.

The break-in and the aftermath
The until then secure brick built shed at the Linford Christie Outdoor Sports Arena near Wormwood Scrubs in West London where the bikes had been stored, was burgled, and property removed by thieves who smashed through the roof. Project leader Gwen Cook stumbled across it when she went to review the bikes in readiness for the 2009 courses.

"It was a real shock when I opened the door because from the outside, everything looked normal. But then when I unlocked it and went inside, there was nothing there. It took me a couple of seconds for it to sink it, but there were no bikes and there was a big hole in the roof. Everything had gone. Everything."

But it wasn’t really until after Gwen had reported the matter to both the Council and the Police that the full effect of having no bikes suddenly hit home.

"I’d only gone up there to check the serial numbers on the bikes for the project insurance because we were about to send out fliers to get people signed up ready for our first course which was due to start later in the month."

"But suddenly I had no bikes – and more importantly, no money and no real idea of how to replace what had been stolen, so it was very serious and I thought that was it; the project would fold and somehow we’d have to pay all of the money back."

What to do next?
Fortunately, help was at hand via LCC. By coincidence, Belinda, one of LCC's community cycling officers, paid a visit to the project that very day.

"It was the last thing I expected when I went off to see Gwen, and she looked so forlorn when I eventually found her; she’s put so much into this programme that it seemed even more unfair that this had happened to her. But luckily, I was able to help her sort it out."

"One of the priorities for me over the winter months was to build new links between projects and develop a cycle contact network to act as a resource for everybody with whom we work."

"I’ve got a lot of contacts across the cycling world, and by linking them with existing LCC groups, I was able to build a very useful contact base. It really came up trumps when Agewell needed help because it meant that I instantly had a good idea of where to go for what I needed to get Gwen sorted".

LCC, the Met Police and community networking
An agreement with the Met Police to supply abandoned and stolen bikes to LCC for community projects before they went to auction, and finalised just the day before, was put into immediate action.

Another ATC funded project, the English Churches Housing Group lent two bikes and donated two more, LCC recalled three that had been lodged at another project, and Pearson’s, a local bike shop supplied three new bikes at trade price, forgoing their profit and enabling bike locks and other vital accessories to be bought from the money saved.

"It worked very well, particularly as this project needed specific bikes because of the rider group. That meant that we couldn’t just replace those stolen with any old models – we had to source particular styles and sizes, but the whole thing was made easy by the network and the co-operation of everybody".

"Baily at English Churches reviewed her stock and gave us two, Inspector Helen Harper at Wimbledon Police Station got that bit going – although I think she was a bit surprised at  how quickly I called upon her help - and Will Pearson at Pearson’s in Sutton was really great in giving us stuff at trade, and all that together meant that Gwen and Agewell get to ride again in 2009".