Leeds motorbike theft problem needs tackling to stop illegal and anti-social riders - Motorcycle Action Group
More must be done to prevent motorcycle thefts in Leeds, a campaign group has said as police figures reveal fewer than half of the vehicles stolen are ever recovered.
Data secured by Leeds and Bradford Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) shows 1,386 motorcycle thefts were recorded in the city between January 2018 and December 2020.
Its members warn these thefts have much wider implications beyond the cost and inconvenience to owners, with the stolen vehicles often linked to anti-social behaviour in communities.
MAG branch rep Richard Manton said: “In the past, people used to have their bikes nicked and they would break them down for spares.
“What they tend to do these days is you get the anti-social riders causing all sorts of bother. They use them for drug running and all sorts.
“I know one girl in Leeds who’s had three bikes stolen before she’s even passed her test - that’s ridiculous. Why should anyone be in that situation?”
The police figures, released following a Freedom of Information request, show there were 598 motorcycle thefts in 2018, 630 in 2019 and 158 in 2020.
The stolen vehicles were recovered in only 41 per cent of cases, with fewer than three per cent of all investigations resulting in a suspect being charged or issued with a court summons.
“The theft has dropped dramatically in the last year but the only reason is everybody’s bikes have been parked up in the garage,” Mr Manton said. “They’re not leaving them in the centre of Leeds.”
The lack of secure parking in Leeds city centre has long been a source of frustration for MAG members, with the view being that the council consistently overlooks motorcyclists when it comes to transport policy and investment.
Mr Manton said: “I don’t think motorcyclists are high up enough on the agenda. I’m not sure they’re on it at all. The only reason we are is because we keep campaigning and pushing them.”
Discussions with West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport have proven more fruitful, with its Transport Strategy 2040 noting motorcycles are a “convenient, affordable and efficient form of transport in their use of fuel and of road space”.
Its commitments include providing more secure motorcycle parking and adopting a standardised approach to local authority controlled motorcycle parking.
After talks with MAG, it agreed to give £20,000 per year in 2017/18 and 2018/19 to each of the county’s five councils to spend on motorcycle parking and other access improvements.
No funding was ringfenced specifically for motorcycle parking in the following three financial years, although Leeds City Council was allocated £1,357,000 per year for 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 for community focused accessibility improvements including for safer motorcycling.
Mr Manton said: “Some of the councils have spent all the money which is great. Bradford has put secure parking into every single council car park.”
But he said that when it comes to Leeds, it is not clear how the ringfenced funds were used - if at all - and the concern is unspent money may have to be returned.
MAG says the council also appears to have removed motorcycle parking bays in Park Row and Cookridge Street as part of its Connecting Leeds redesign of the city centre.
Mr Manton said he believed around 90 Sheffield stands - suitable for securely parking bicycles and motorcycles - had been ordered using the WYCA funds, but none had been put in place.
“They’re quite happy to put up a pop-up cycle lane, but they can’t put those in,” he added.
“We’ve gone out and campaigned and secured this money. It’s there and we can’t get the council to spend it.”
A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “Leeds City Council is progressing a package that will include designated and secure parking for motorcycles at 16 car parks across the city, providing a total of 44 free to use parking spaces.
“Following consultation with key stakeholders, including the Motorcycle Action Group, the council is also exploring the provision of signage that encourages motorcyclists to remember to lock their bikes, use an alarm and stay vigilant.
“The council is looking to spend around £39,000 over the next financial year to help provide more secure motorcycle parking – this includes the 44 free to use parking spaces, installation of locking anchors, changes to road markings and signage."
They said motorcycle parking affected by the Connecting Leeds work would be relocated as follows:
> The former motorcycle parking on Cookridge Street will be moved to Oxford Place
> The former motorcycle parking on Lower Briggate will be moved to Sovereign Street (Eastern end)
> The former motorcycle parking area on New York Street will be moved to Wharf Street”
The spokesperson added that the relocation of these spaces was included in the LPTIP (Leeds Public Transport Investment Programme) consultation with stakeholder groups.
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