By Lena de Casparis
‘Bike jacking’ – a term recently defined on an online slang dictionary as the theft of a bike while someone is riding it – has affected a number of cyclists in Southwark and is causing concern among the cycling community.
One victim, Lars Kosler, 36 told The Platform he was attacked on Leathermarket Street in Southwark while riding home from work last week. He said he was stopped by three youths who jumped out in front of him, forced him off his bike and ran away with it. Local bystanders could do nothing to prevent the crime.
He said of the attackers: “They were holding something in their hands which looked like a knife so I decided to give the bike away.”
The guys were really aggressive and I do not want to meet them again, unless in court.”
Police are examining CCTV footage of the attack but as yet the bike has not been discovered.
On a forum on the SE1 community website other Southwark residents said they had been victim or had witnessed similar occurrences. Contributor ‘Indomie’ said: “My house mate got ‘bike jacked’ a couple of weeks back – three young guys dragged him off his bicycle. He’s just told me he’s now moving out of Southwark as he wants to live somewhere safer.”
While bike theft is a common occurrence – TFL reported over 80,000 bicycles stolen last year throughout Greater London – London Cycling Campaign communications officer Mike Cavenett said that ‘bike jacking’ was an unusual crime. “The most common problem for cyclists is having their bikes stolen while they are locked up,” he said.
Barry Mason, a Southwark cyclist support group organiser, confirmed there had been a number of isolated ‘bike jacking’ incidents throughout Southwark, particularly round the Old Kent road area.
Mason is concerned that a number of cyclists had been mugged and assaulted recently in Burgess Park, which covers 113 acres in Southwark.
On Monday 17, Mason spoke to Walworth-based sergeant Mark Stevens who told him around six people had had their bikes ‘jacked’ as they cycled through the park on the recommended bike paths in the last month.
He said: “Very sadly, I now have to advise everyone to stay out of the park at night for now as there is a gang of brats lurking there who the police are after.”
Southwark Council executive member for community safety Paul Kyriacou said: “Southwark Council’s community wardens have stepped up their presence in Burgess Park and are patrolling every evening, often until 2am. As well as foot patrols, we’re also trialing cycle patrols in the evenings. We’re working closely with Police on the situation, and we’ll continue to patrol as necessary.”
But Inspector Peter Turner of Southwark police admitted the solution was still unclear: “The local Safer Neighbourhoods teams covering Burgess Park have been consulting with agencies and park user groups to identify possible solutions to address this problem. No permanent long-term solution has been chosen as yet, but all options are under consideration, including discouraging use of the park at night, and proposing closure and locking of the park after dark.”
Mason of the Southwark cyclist support group insisted the suggestion to close the “lovely park” was unacceptable and police needed to find another solution that allowed cyclists to stay safe but remain in the park.