Meet Bob. Bob hired a TfL/Santander bicycle for £1.65/30minutes and lost it.

Bob has presumably committed a breach of contract, but has he committed a criminal offence?

Now meet Alice. Alice hired a car for £30/day from enterprise. She also loses it and fails to return it. Has she committed any criminal offence or are these situations purely civil wrongs?

Does the answer change if it is a DVD from Blockbuster rather than a car or bicycle?

  • Let's suppose they were extremely exhausted and forgot where they'd left it. Or they set it down on the kickstand beside them when stopping to ask or give someone some directions and when they turned back around it was gone. Oct 6, 2022 at 16:50
  • Or alternately: suppose they didn't lose it and remained in possession of it but simply forgot to return it when they were supposed to. Oct 6, 2022 at 16:50
  • 2
    A critical element of theft or larceny is "intent to deprive the victim of the property permanently." It sounds like in all cases, the renter had no such intent. Though in the "forgot to return it" case, it is entirely possible that a court would not believe them. Oct 6, 2022 at 16:56
  • 1
    Just saying: If you rent a car in the USA and continue using it for long enough without paying, that can become criminal. Not if you have a good excuse.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 7, 2022 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


I cannot see any criminal offence with Bob losing a bike. It is, as far as I can see, purely contractual.

According to TfL Santander Cycles Lost, stolen or faulty page:

If your cycle is lost or stolen, call the Contact Centre on 0343 222 6666 (call charges may apply). We're open every day of the year.


Charges for missing/damaged cycles

You may be charged if the bike is not returned or is damaged by you or an additional user.

  • Not returned: up to a maximum charge of £300

  • Damage: up to a maximum charge of £300

Similarly, purely losing a hire car is not a criminal offence. It would be a matter for the insurance provider to deal with.

If Bob was complicit in theft, then that would require a different (and off-topic) answer.

  • Then just to be clear the £300 would be a purely civil matter for tfl to pursue? Oct 6, 2022 at 16:57
  • 1
    @JosephP. yes, it is a contractual non-returnee charge. If Bob doesn't want to pay it, TFL can go to small claims to get the money.
    – Trish
    Oct 6, 2022 at 17:31
  • Is non returnee a typo? Oct 6, 2022 at 20:39

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