'Secure bike sheds should be mandatory' - Cycle campaigners make plea after 'disturbing' number of bike thefts from NHS workers including Covid-19 doctor

Cycle campaigners have blasted the “poor” state of bike storage facilities at hospital sites in the Lothians in the wake of recent thefts from NHS workers, including a doctor working 56 hours a week treating Covid-19 patients.

The Evening News reported yesterday how doctor Niamh Cooper finished her shift at the Western General Hospital at 5:30pm on Tuesday when she discovered her bicycle lock in two pieces on the ground outside the hospital’s main entrance.

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The 32-year-old, who often cycles 10 miles from her Broughton home to work the morning shift at the Royal Infirmary before an afternoon at the Western General, worries there is a general public acceptance that bike theft across Edinburgh is the “norm.”

Professor Chris Oliver is asking for more secure bike sheds at hospitals in NHS Lothian, in the wake of recent bike thefts from NHS workers like Niamh Cooper.

She also says there is a need for more secure bike shed capacity on NHS Lothian sites, especially because public bodies regularly encourage more active, greener modes of travel.

David French, a spokesman for Spokes, The Lothian Cycle Campaign, said today they have been made aware of a "disturbing" number of bike thefts outside hospitals in recent weeks, and that authorities should be doing "far more" to prevent thefts, particularly during the pandemic when less people should be using public transport.

‘Upsetting’ for doctors and nurses

Retired surgeon, prrofessor Chris Oliver, also a spokesperson for Spokes, said the new Royal Infirmary at Little France has had "poor provision" for safe, 24-hour storage for NHS cyclists ever since it was built.

He said: "It’s very upsetting for doctors and nurses to come back to their bike to discover it’s been systematically vandalised for parts or completely stolen. It should be mandatory that NHS Lothian and Edinburgh University provide secure safe bike parking for staff that need to travel to work by cycle.

Professor Oliver, who was an orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Infirmary, added: "It’s no excuse that poor cycling infrastructure persists, especially with the recent move to more active travel with the pandemic.”

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Doctor Cooper, who returned from research to work in Edinburgh’s Covid-19 hospital wards in March, believes her Pinnacle Arkose bicycle was stolen from a bike rack outside the hospital at some point between 1:30pm and 5:30pm on Tuesday.

Her bike was stolen just a few days after another NHS worker, Lottie Qayle, told the Evening News that CCTV from a guest house beside her workplace in Links Place showed a man spending about 10 minutes stealing her bike which was secured to a rack outside.

The 29-year-old, who also lives in Broughton, says she was "incensed" by the theft and suggested more people who might normally be shoplifting could be turning to bike theft.

Lottie said she also spoke with a colleague who had heard of two other cases of bikes being stolen from NHS workers in the same week.

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Police said previously they are carrying out inquiries into the thefts, including viewing CCTV.

NHS Lothian has been contacted for comment.