Mevrouw T’s bike was stolen last week.

Pouring rain, a dash into the supermarket, forgetting to fasten the lock, remembering too late, a dash out of the supermarket, a desperate search of the bike racks, questions to bystanders (who naturally saw nothing)…and a long walk home. In the rain.

It wasn’t only the bike she lost, and the just-purchased lunch of Hollandse Nieuwe herring she had in the saddlebag; self-respect and faith in humanity were stolen too. ‘How could I be so stupid?’ was closely followed by ‘How could anyone be so mean?’ and ‘What sort of sick town/society/world do we live in?’

Bicycle theft is falling from its highs in the early 2000s, but is still the most common crime in Amsterdam. I did some research on the figures. Sobering reading.

According to the police and cycling organisation Fietsersbond, between 50,000 and 80,000 bikes involuntarily change owners in the city each year. Nearly one in ten of the city’s estimated 800,000+ bikes. 150-200 a day.

The Amsterdam police website has plenty of advice about how to avoid becoming a victim. A good lock helps (it also helps to remember to use it), as do measures like fixing the bike to a large building with a chain that could moor a battleship.

More complex and expensive precautions, like engraving, insurance, registration of the frame and inserting secret ID chips, we’d probably only take for a really special bike. And ‘Don’t park your gleaming special bike in a row of rattletraps’ is another police suggestion.

As we’ve told our sad tale to friends, we’ve found everybody has a similar story: ‘I stopped at a flower stall and turned my back…’, ‘I didn’t chain the front wheel and they took it…’, ‘I did chain the front wheel and they took the rest of the bike…’ It’s not the first bike we’ve lost either.

Yes, we can replace it. It was some years old, a common model and not worth a lot of money. The thief won’t get much for it at all, which makes the event even more galling.

Because any old bike is not just any old bike. Bikes acquire personalities, and in turn become part of the owner’s personality. Some people (though not us) give their bikes pet names and treat them as friends.

Mevrouw T’s bike had a saddle tailored to her tail end, comfortably adjusted handlebars and water-resistant saddlebags with a fresh herring inside. It had its own feel. A replacement city bike will feel different.

We have a couple of things we’d like to say to the creep who nicked the small Gazelle from outside Dirk van den Broek supermarket on the Sloterkade. We’re sorry about your miserable childhood, unfortunate drug/alcohol/gambling problem, lack of satisfying employment and your psychological disorder, but you’re still a creep.

However, if you have a change of heart and want to return the bike, leave a message in the comments box. No questions asked and I’ll withdraw the ‘creep’ thing. If you don’t have a change of heart – we hope you choke on the herring.

A final thought. Who and where are the 50,000-80,000 people who buy a stolen bike each year? My French-built city bike cost 50 euros in a market in Dusseldorf in 2005. I got it from a guy who got it from this German guy. Am I part of the Axle of Evil?


Filed under Cycling, Holland

23 responses to “ANOTHER BIKE STOLEN – DAMN!

  1. Up to 80,000 bikes a year…wow! It really is one of the most annoying things, you have my sympathy!

    • The most boring effect of that figure is the need to fiddle around with chains, locks and keys every day.

      • I can imagine… and I know there are far worse ills in the world, but it’s so frustrating when it happens that it really is the sort of thing that makes you lose faith in humanity.

      • Jenny Thompson

        Oh Richard and Agnes you have my sympathy – yes, the fiddling now with keys and locks and stuff must be the most dispiriting part of it all – not being able to trust . Jen

  2. I had a bike stolen from a train station in Portugal. When I lived in Adelaide there was a gang drove around in a car with a trailer and they stole bikes, then sold them to bike shops. We had 4 stolen from our house early one morning (we got one back when a friend saw it in a bike shop!). There is nowhere to hide from a determined criminal.

    • Maybe the notorious Adelaide trailer-gang has transferred its operation to Amsterdam? I’ll watch the Sloterkade for anyone who talks about ‘floaters’ or supports the Crows.

  3. I often hear it said that we shouldn’t get attached to material things … but … there are some things that become a part of us, our history and shared adventures/life experiences. Bikes are kind of a physical extension of what we do. I love my bike!!! Hope you get lucky and get it back.

  4. I know your pain and you have my commiserations. A bike is more than just a bike, it is your companion in your travels. I hope you find it, but if not then good luck finding a new steed.

  5. Sorry to hear about your loss, Richard. I remember when they started the first bike sharing program in Amsterdam, the short-lived era of the free white bikes. You know what happened to that brave, but idealistic idea…. Good luck finding a compatible replacement.

    • Thanks for the commiseration, Chris and John.

      The ideal replacement would be a beat-up workhorse worth less than the chain that binds it to the bridge. My own city bike cost 50 euros in 2005, and I’ve grown very fond of it.

  6. Even worse if he doesn’t spot the herring and he starts to smell bad after a couple of days!

    • A scenario I’d thought would be good, Andrew, would be if he (or she or it; let’s not jump to conclusions here) lugged the pilfered bike into his (or her or its) apartment and went on holidays for a fortnight, leaving the herring to work its magic on the atmosphere.

  7. Jeroen

    Oh no, that’s really annoying. I’m sorry for Agnes, and the bike who will no doubt be in less good hands now. I hope that you’ll find a nice new oma fiets for a decent price. Try a junky and you may find one that fits Agnes’ tail end perfectly šŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Jeroen.

      Unfortunately as you would know it takes quite a bit of trial and error to find a bike that fits anybody’s tail end perfectly.

      I wish the thief and/or the thief’s eventual client many hours of riding discomfort.

  8. We saw so many old looking bikes chained to bridges in Amsterdam that we thought some must have been forgotten. Sorry Mevrouw T’s bike got stolen, having seen the way people in Amsterdam decorated their bikes to add that personal touch I can understand how a replacement bike wouldn’t feel the same.

  9. kevinmayne

    What a pain. Son just had his nicked in Wales which means I now have to force him out into the Belgian Sunday markets (brocantes) where I too fear we may be part of a “cycle of crime”.

  10. rebeccafalbrecht

    My husband. daughter and I were in Amsterdam last week for a week, and rented an apartment. Our landlord suggested that we bring our folders into the apartment at night which we did. We carried our bikes up two narrow, steep flights of stairs. My husband or daughter carried my bike for me up and then down again in the morning. We were spared the anxiety of whether they would be there, outside waiting for us in the morning. My daughter had a rental bike, which blended in, so she of course left her bike outside overnight. My Amsterdam cousin has a bicycle stolen every year. I am told that that is pretty standard.

    • As Oscar Wilde may have said, ‘To lose one bike may be counted a misfortune; to lose one every year sounds very much like carelessness.’

      But it is a bore to have to be so careful all the time.

      Hope you enjoyed some riding around lovely Amsterdam in spite of that, and last week’s weather.

  11. Oh no, my heartfelt commisserations! And indeed – what a creep to have stolen it!

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