Thieves use GPS apps to track and steal bikes in Wellington

Wellington cyclists are being urged to be cautious when using GPS tracking apps which can be used by potential bike thieves.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington cyclists are being urged to be cautious when using GPS tracking apps which can be used by potential bike thieves.

Mapping your cycle route with GPS tracking apps could be alerting burglars to where exactly where your bike is stored. 

It has prompted Wellington police and cycling advocates to warn cyclists to check their settings on mapping apps, like Strava, and be careful about what they share online.

Wellington has seen a big spike in bike thefts over the past few months, described by police as "very widespread and very opportunistic".

Fitness tracker Strava uses GPS tracking to log where and how fast people ride, with that information then made ...
SUPPLIED

Fitness tracker Strava uses GPS tracking to log where and how fast people ride, with that information then made available to users online.

"The less that is shared online, the safer people could be," Wellington area prevention manager Inspector Clint Walker warns.

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"Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for thieves to search through publicly available details," Walker said. 

An example of a Strava-created map from Happy Valley Road to Brooklyn.
STRAVA

An example of a Strava-created map from Happy Valley Road to Brooklyn.

Strava, one of the world's most popular ride-tracking apps, uses GPS to log where and how fast people ride, with that information then made available to users online.

Figures released by police under the Official Information Act show a decrease in the rate of bike theft year-on-year but there has been an increase in bike thefts in the capital, and particularly in Kelburn and in Willis St .

"The message should be, check your privacy settings," says Patrick Morgan, from the Cycling Action Network. 

In response to dozens of bike thefts in the city, police have joined forces with Wellington City Council for a new bike ...
SUPPLIED/WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL

In response to dozens of bike thefts in the city, police have joined forces with Wellington City Council for a new bike security campaign.

He advised that cyclists change their privacy settings on apps like Strava, to mask their home address and work place, which could otherwise be revealed.

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"I wouldn't say don't use it...they are fun and useful tools, but like any tool you want to be careful." 

Wellington cyclist Ruby Straugheir previously used a similar GPS tracker to record her cycling times.

"When I first started not many people had Strava or Garmin but over the past five years it has increased a lot," Straugheir said.

She said the risk associated with the app gave her second thoughts on using it in the future.

"If I were to leave it somewhere outside, locked up with a bike lock I probably wouldn't use Garmin or Strava."

 Wellington City Council transport choice coordinator Hugh Wilson said the latest advice wasn't part of the official bike theft awareness campaign but it was important cyclists were aware of the information they were sharing online.

"Just like all other online activity we recommend people review their privacy settings regularly. Apps like Strava have standard security settings to ensure activity is only accessible to whom it's intended."

Mountainbiker Davide Conti, who manages the Wellington Stolen Bicycles Facebook page, said he was made aware of the GPS warning during a meeting with the Wellington City Council last week to discuss further prevention ideas.

 

 - Stuff

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