More than $1 million of bikes have been stolen across New Zealand in the past year, with electric bike insurance claims almost doubling in value to $225,000 in 12 months.
Even though the number of claims for stolen bikes made to AA Insurance has dropped in the past 12 months, the cost has jumped as thieves increasingly target e-bikes valued anywhere between $1500 and $10,000 each.
Aucklander Olivia Yates' e-bike was one of those.
She walked out of a show at the Civic Theatre in the CBD on June 25 to find her helmet rolling back and forth on the ground and her e-bike nowhere to be seen. She had only owned it for around three months.
"I had parked it outside Burger Fuel in plain sight. Yet even then it was not safe," she told the Herald.
"I kind of expected it. It was only later that the frustration and inconvenience set in. Part of me knew it would be stolen eventually."
Data shows in the 12 months ending in June, AA Insurance handled almost $225,000 worth of claims for stolen e-bikes, around 21 per cent of the overall cost of stolen bike claims.
It's almost double the cost from the previous 12 months, when claims amounted to $116,000 of the total of $850,000 stolen bike claims.
Yates claimed around $4,000 for the bike and other stolen accessories.
She said e-bikes are becoming increasingly easier to replace but a lot harder to find than a car.
She now makes sure she doesn't park her new e-bike in a public street, always takes her gear with her and uses a safer lock.
"A lot of bikes are now selling a higher range lock as a standard rather than just a chain. It has a wire that runs through the middle that can't be cut," Yates said.
Thieves are becoming increasingly brazen with their stealing tactics.
In one incident, a couple had their e-bikes stolen from their gated apartment.
CCTV footage showed the thieves accessed the property with a key card before making off with the two bikes valued at almost $8000, AA said in a statement.
Another thief cut through the lock around an expensive mountain bike outside a council building using bolt cutters. The bike, helmet and accessories amounting to almost $13,500 were stolen.
Founder of Hybrid Bikes in Nelson, Frank Witowski, said he made it harder for thieves to buy a charger for his bikes online. People now have to provide proof of purchase.
"People like myself who own a brand, they could make it harder for thieves to target.
"We had a lot of phone calls from people asking for the part you normally can't get when you steal a bike, a charger."
AA said almost 85 per cent of e-bikes are replaced after being stolen - compared with 45 per cent of regular bikes - making them an attractive target for thieves.
AA said fewer people are intending to drive since the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, and are keen to pick up other modes of transport such as e-bikes, bikes, scooters and e-scooters – almost one in five people.
AA tips to keep bikes or e-bikes safe:
To discourage potential thieves ensure you choose a well-lit and high traffic area in which to leave your bike. If possible, bring your bike inside with you, and lock it.
Use a cable lock to secure the front wheel to your frame, then securely lock the frame to the bike park, or an object that's stronger than your bike and lock, with a good quality d-lock or heavy-duty chain lock – the best you can afford. Just locking the wheels isn't enough. The more locks the better, as it will take a thief longer to open them and risks them destroying the bike in the process. This decreases the bike's worth and with it their interest.
For e-bikes, lock the individual parts, such as the battery, to the bike itself.
Don't always leave your bike in the same place, as it gives potential thieves the chance to study your pattern and locking system.
For an additional deterrent, install a GPS tracking device, or at least a sticker that suggests you have one.
Before leaving your bike, remove attachments like lights, GPS and cameras off the bike and take them with you.
Register your bike at www.snap.org.nz, an NZ Police asset registration system, called SNAP, which automatically alerts police if they find a stolen bike.