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The Challenge

Statistically a bicycle is stolen every minute in the UK with less than 5% returned to their owners (1).

Bike owners are more likely to have their bike stolen than motorcyclists their motorbike, or car owners their car, indicating that cycle theft is easier or less risky than theft of other vehicles (2).

The challenge is to change this situation: How can cycle security be improved, without compromising the ease and enjoyment of cycling? The aim is to design functional, attractive and secure cycles, anti-theft cycle accessories (locks), secure cycle parking (furniture and facilities) and anti-theft cycle schemes (e.g. registration schemes) to promote cycling.
When designing new products designers take on board, consciously or unconsciously, factors and issues which influence their decision-making process. These may be classified according to ‘models,’ through which we can gain a greater understanding of the design process, and the agendas behind it. This project is concerned with an analysis of and response to a system of use.
When considering a system of use, it is often beneficial to consider alongside this, a system of misuse and abuse. Taking a ‘sideways’ look at products from the point-of-view of a non-typical or undesirable user such as an adaptive criminal, gives great insight into ways of tackling crime through design.
Designers rarely take on board issues of crime prevention in the design of new products. Vulnerability of a product to crime, or to the criminal use to which a product might be put, are most often problems noticed in hindsight with a view to some sort of post-design fix. This is far from ideal.

A key skill that designers have is to make sense of the way people live and behave, and draw insights from those observations. This allows them to visualise radical ideas and solutions. In the same way they need to be able to anticipate and visualise the benefits and problems with particular systems – in this context, bike security, personal security, anti-social behaviour, access, property theft, vandalism – and what the appropriate design interventions might be to improve them.
Recent years have seen a number of initiatives and organisations that address crime issues from an environmental and situational point of view, including Secured by Design (SBD), Designing out Crime Association (DOCA), Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), COPS guides.

A more reflective, culturally aware and predominantly object-based approach may be seen in work created by the ‘Design Against Crime’ (DAC) Research Centre at Central Saint Martins. The research of the Bike Off Research Initiative was set up in January 2004 to establish how the design of cycling related objects and environments, as well as communicating best secure practice to cyclists and providers of cycle infrastructure, may reduce the risk of bike theft.
This Design Directions project requires you to draw on the findings of the above research, now summarised in the Bikeoff 2 design resource as well as your own innovative research around cycle use and security.

1 In UK, 439,000 incidents of bike theft according to BCS 2004-5 (just under 1 bike stolen every minute); this compares with 102,680 incidents reported to police.
2 International Crime Victim Survey, 2000

©2008 // DESIGN AGAINST CRIME RESEARCH CENTRE // LONDON WC1B 4AP fully funded by the AHRC / EPSRC Designing for the 21st Century Initiative