My bicycle was insured and locked to a leisure centre provided bicycle rack while I was in the leisure centre and was stolen by the time I came out. I was later informed that someone else had their bicycle stolen the previous week.

The leisure centre did not display a 'left at owner's risk' sign, 'thieves operate in this area' sign or have line-of-sight CCTV but provide both of these for car parks.

Is the leisure centre partly liable (in UK law) for not providing reasonable security deterrents such as CCTV and 'thieves operate in this area'?

  • 1
    I doubt that you'd ever be successful suing the provider in the US, and likely the UK is about the same. Signs basically deter people from falsely assuming that the provider is responsible, and also "scare" users into taking a bit more care, but the absence of signs is no warranty that bikes are safe. Aug 8, 2011 at 16:18
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    You have to be kidding. another blame game question. the thief is responsible, some things in life just suck.
    – Moab
    Aug 9, 2011 at 16:28
  • @Moab I agree, the thief is completely responsible. I do think that the leisure centre is responsible for informing its cycling customers that thefts do take place (I've since been told that there have been three in the last two weeks) and taking adequate deterrents to avoid them. Whether or not they are legally obliged to do so is really the foundation of my question.
    – PhilJ
    Aug 9, 2011 at 17:46
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    I certainly hope not. If public rack providers are responsible when someone steals a bike out of one of their racks, the best solution for them is to not provide racks. Aug 13, 2011 at 15:05
  • @Phil, no they are not obligated, they do not collect this information, the local law enforcement does. Its thinking like yours that will get bike racks removed for public use.
    – Moab
    Aug 13, 2011 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


I feel your pain. The leisure centre have no liability whatsoever or requirement to put up signs saying so. Not only that, even if the CCTV covered your bike there is little likelihood that it would be checked. In part this is because of the time that the police would have to take to go through it. Due to the Data Protection Act you would not be able to go through the tapes yourself to help them with that task.

Right now the police seem to have a bit of a riot situation on their hands so I would not even bother to report it if the reason is to get the bike back. However, you may want to report it so that crime figures are more accurate (e.g. higher under the Tories...) And, if you do report it, expect some strange questions regarding the description. These can be woefully inadequate for actually identifying your bike. In fact you could post what they ask up here.

Getting a bike back from the police even if it is recovered is quite an ordeal. I handed in a bike I found to them once and went in a month later to claim it under 'finder's keepers' rules. It took me five hours for some reason, but after the first hour I was just intrigued as to how long it would take.

As for getting a replacement, find out if you can get a bike-to-work deal through your employers. Then when insurance cough up, you can have one bike for the week and another for the weekend.

  • I reported it before the riots but the police said that they wouldn't follow up unless there was CCTV footage. Luckily for me, there is someone at the leisure centre looking over the footage today. With regards to getting bicycles back, I added it to www.immobilise.co.uk and registered it as stolen so if anyone finds it with frame number intact, they get my contact details.
    – PhilJ
    Aug 8, 2011 at 15:53
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    One other thing you can do (in the future) is to put a card with your contact information around the seatpost before you insert it into the seat tube. Any mechanic the bike is taken to will find this card, but most thieves won't know to look for it. It can help you recover the bike in the event of another theft. Aug 8, 2011 at 15:58


Almost certainly no, for the same reasons that a parking deck owner is not liable for the theft of a car inside. Unless you can prove that the bicycle rack was installed improperly due to gross negligence, and the improper installation allowed the bicycle to be stolen even while locked properly, you would have no case whatsoever.

Locking a bike properly is the owner's responsibility. To prevent your next bike from being stolen, follow this advice:

  1. Do not use a cable lock to lock your frame.
  2. Use the smallest U-lock that will work (the larger the U-lock, the more easily-defeated by a bottle jack).
  3. Use the U-lock to lock the rear wheel to a fixed object, through your rear triangle (the one formed by the seat tube, chain stay, and seat stay). See the picture below.
  4. Optionally use a second U-lock, or a cable through the first U-lock, to secure your front wheel.

proper locking technique

Sorry to hear about your bike being stolen. Good luck finding it (check Craigslist ads and/or eBay) or replacing it!

Thanks to Sheldon Brown for the image.

Update: As an addendum, if you lock up your bike at the same location daily, you can use a much heavier chain lock to lock up your bike. At work, I use that lock through the rear wheel and the rear triangle, and I have a cable that I loop through the front wheel and attach to the chain. The chain lock is prohibitively heavy to carry around regularly, but if you leave the bike at the same location frequently, you can simply leave the chain lock and cable there as a permanent fixture.

Update: My use of a chain and cable lock at work.

chain and cable lock

  • Thanks for the quick response. I was wondering if the signs in car parks are shown out of courtesy to car owners or to limit liability and if the same could be applied for bike racks. I set up got ebay and craigslist rss feeds since it happened but it could be sold elsewhere or for parts. I'm also in talks with the local authority and owner of the bike racks to provide better CCTV coverage in future.
    – PhilJ
    Aug 8, 2011 at 13:12
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    This does of course depend on the jurisdiction, but I am not aware of a US or UK jurisdiction which holds a provider liable for injury due to use of equipment provided, except in the case of negligence or willful harm.
    – zenbike
    Aug 8, 2011 at 14:23
  • Insecure locking method shown in picture, it would still be possilble to lock the frame also there. youtube.com/watch?v=H9fLtdZyX-A
    – Papuass
    Aug 8, 2011 at 14:52
  • Every locking method can be defeated. By using a larger U-lock and locking the frame as well, you increase the likelihood that a thief with a bottle jack can steal your bike. Which is more likely? A thief with a hacksaw who doesn't care about riding away with the bike, or a thief with a bottle jack who can ride away with his prize? It doesn't matter — if you're up against a thief with the proper tools and enough motivation, you're screwed anyway. Aug 8, 2011 at 15:25
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    If you choose to leave your chain attached to the bike rack in the park that I used to work at, you would do so at your own risk. A line of old chains and u-locks is quite an eyesore. We would routinely cut them off and discard them. Note that park maintenance staff have far more sophisiticated lock-cutting tools than most theives! We hate to leave cyclist without a lock... but leaving a lock behind is abandonment of property and littering, both illegal!
    – DC_CARR
    Aug 9, 2011 at 21:05

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