Amsterdam is a city famous for bicycles. The common factoid often quoted is that there are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people. The vague number of bicycles in the city is due to the lack of compulsory registration and that there are far to many to count.
Bicycle theft has always been a part of Amsterdam history since the two wheel objects became popular in the late 1800s. The 1920s saw a great boom in bicycles and their theft. Police reports from Amsterdam saw the problem of citizens not locking their bicycles. A city bi-law was introduced that made it an offence to not lock your bike. This was then repealed due to the public outcry that followed when fines were issued to bicycle owners.
The theft rate increased to such a rate that in the 1950s people just used what ever bike was unlocked. This led to the famous White Bike Scheme where any white bike could be used and left for the next person. This idealist program failed due to the lack of Dutch pragmatic management such as maintenance and redistribution measures.
When the West wind blew strong nearby Haarlem police new the Amsterdam bike thieves would pay the hamlet a visit. The police would rush along the road connecting Amsterdam to Haarlem once a theft was reported in a hope to catch the thief with the wind full against their back.
Other stories recount the boat man who would amaze visitors with his line and grappling hook. As he angelically smiled at the crowd he hauled one after another bicycle into his boat. The good Samaritan would then recycle the bikes or scrap the metal. Only later would locals find it was the "good Samaritan" who had placed the bicycles in the canals. A thief with a smile. The water authority is now responsible for dredging Amsterdam canals of 10 000 to 15 000 bicycles per year.
Students of Amsterdam universities have all been keen to meet the bicycle thief in the wee hours of the mornings. On leaving their festivities the inebriated student has often been unable to locate their bike. They happily hand over money for a stolen bicycle as an alternative to an expensive taxi.
The students were such a great source of revenue that bridges near campus buildings soon became known as Junkie Bridge for the wide selection of available black market bicycles. Another common phrase by the student is "there is never a bicycle thief when you need one", as the student trudges home in the rain.
An Amsterdam bicycle thief comes in many forms. Whole vans are known to descend on a bicycle parking lot and leave with a vehicle full of bikes. It has been said that in the nearby Province of Overijssel everyone rides on Amsterdam bikes. The rise of the internet has enabled the Amsterdam bicycle thief to send the the much sought after sturdy Dutch bikes further afield into Europe.
You are really not an Amsterdammer until you get your bicycle stolen. The experience is unique. It is a mixture of despair and grief. Deep loathing is felt as you realize that it is in fact stolen and not misplace. The following days you trudge the city with the look of a vengeful vigilante. Every passing bicycle possibly yours. Every passenger on a similar bicycle is a probable thief or accomplice.
With such a rich history of bicycle theft it is not a surprise that an Amsterdam thief has been caught on camera with great fanfare. What is surprising, is that this thief was exposed by a bicycle organisation to highlight the issue of bicycle theft.
So here we have a clip from the organisation We Love Cycling who organised the Annual 2015 European Bicycle Stealing Championship.
Amsterdam may not have world class pickpockets or quick of hand 3 card monte scammers but we are the 2015 European Bicycle Stealing Champions!
When in Amsterdam enjoy........................................................and lock up your bike!