Bikers demand safer parking as thefts rise

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 March, 2006, 12:00am

Wilson Parking says it has stepped up security patrols and is working to improve its security-camera coverage amid accusations of negligence, following a recent spate of motorcycle theft on its premises.

The moves came as the Hong Kong United Front for Motorcyclists' Rights was scheduled to meet members of the Parking Association of Hong Kong to demand improved security and more motorcycle parking for local riders in public car parks.

Motorcycle theft continues to soar in the city, with 517 stolen last year, up 17 per cent from the 441 bikes snatched in 2004. The uphill trend has been happening since the easing of Taiwan's cylinder- capacity restrictions for motorcycles in 2002.

Local bikers have lodged a string of complaints in recent months against the operators of public car parks, including Wilson Parking, which has been accused of negligence for allowing the thefts to occur on its property.

Oliver Dreyer, president of the local chapter of the Mad Dog Motorcycle Club, woke up on Christmas day to find his Honda CB1300 had been taken from the Kam Tao Building car park in Ting Kau, operated by Wilson Parking.

'I had parked my bike two metres from the shroff's office for extra security,' said Mr Dreyer. 'How could the thieves break the lock, then roll the bike down the ramp past another shroff's office and get through the barrier undetected?'

A similar incident occurred to Wolfgang May, who had his brand-new Harley Davidson Heritage Springer worth $300,000 stolen last August from The Pinnacle Car Park below his flat in Tsim Sha Tsui, also operated by Wilson Parking.

'At 6.30 in the morning, I was informed by the security of my residential building, not by Wilson Parking, that my bike was not in the spot where I had parked it some days ago,' recalled Mr May.

He said the car park was guarded by 'an old lady' on the same night that one other bike was stolen and another damaged as thieves tried to pry it out from where it was wedged behind a parked car. Again, CCTV was not working, he said.

He later obtained photographs taken by his residential building's security staff that showed car park attendants asleep at their stations in the early hours of the morning.

Mr May is taking Wilson Parking to the Small Claims Tribunal to seek compensation for negligence although he is not optimistic about the outcome.

'It's not the money I'm after, but the principle. Two bikes were stolen and one was heavily damaged, they must have made a lot of noise. Why didn't any of the duty staff hear anything? The whole thing is ridiculous,' said Mr May.

However, he has good cause for pessimism. Fellow biker Wilson Cheng Se-hin recently took Wilson Parking to the tribunal after his BMW R1200C was ridden out the of the Star Ferry car park entrance without raising any alarms. But the court ruled in favour of Wilson Parking due to a liability disclaimer printed at the entrance.

'Any driver will know that it is impractical if not impossible to read all the small print before entering a car park,' said Mr Cheng. 'In essence, the 'terms and conditions' imply that the car park will not be responsible for any loss or damage to vehicles parked at their premises, even if it is their fault.'

Wilson Parking said it had passed on Mr Dreyer's and Mr May's complaints to their insurers, but added that it was not bound by the insurer's recommendations.

Founder and spokesman for the United Front, Franki Yang Wai said the bikes would be on the way to the mainland or Taiwan within hours of them being stolen.

'These [thieves] are professionals. They drive a van into a car park with heavy duty cutters and pick what they want. They have two or three guys to load the motorcycles more easily, and then they drive out using their ticket,' said Mr Yang. 'About 80 per cent of bike crime occurs on the streets. The thieves generally move from place to place as the season progresses, for instance moving from Central to Wan Chai, or Sha Tin to Tai Po. But most of the crimes occur in Central.'

'The big powerful motorbikes end up in Taiwan, while smaller motorbikes and scooters go to the mainland. But Harley Davidsons and BMWs are also popular across the border where they are esteemed as status symbols,' Mr Yang said.