Bike and psychology (3/3)

I can not conclude this post series (which started here) without writing about an undesirable piece in the bicycle world. I am talking about the bike thieves. Millions of bikes are stolen every year by mainly young males in gangs. Then, they sell the bikes both on the street and online.

Why stealing bikes is so prevalent? According to police services, it is attractive because represents a low risk and cost activity. However, most of stolen bikes are sold at low, sometimes ridiculous, prices. Thus, the psychology here lies in the economic thinking of earning some money with low risk.

The reasons of bike thieves are varied and range from envy to experience a shot of adrenaline. But I think the most important facts is poverty and sometimes related to drug addiction. In fact, this is closely linked to the low cost point that I have mentioned in the previous paragraph. And I reckon, it is partially and indirectly motivated by the shameful fines this action is punished in most countries. Even in relapses, thieves just spend few months in jail. If only politicians feel the importance of having a bike for whatever need (going to college, university, etc., going to work or to buy, practicing sport, fight against climate change, feeling better, you name it).

Few psychological studies have being carried out in this field. One of them was conducted at the Newcastle University campus. Here, the researchers analyzed the impact of installing signs with images of “watching eyes” with a written message as it comes to bike theft. They monitored thefts for 12 months after an before the signs installation. Several location were divided as control (no signs were installed) and experimental (signs were installed). While experimental locations thefts were reduced by 62 per cent, they increased in control ones by 65 per cent. This suggested the importance of signs, but also that crime was displaced to the control locations. Nevertheless, the importance of surveillance was shown.

According to the report, humans have fast, automatic psychological mechanisms which have evolved to respond to eye-like stimuli, and that even mere representations of eyes affects us. We are eye-animals.

On he other hand, it would be great if thefts perception changes towards a more punishable, risky and highly economic cost activity. Fines and prison sentences should increase in bikes thefts as well as bicycle parts.

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