How not to get your bike stolen in the Netherlands

How not to get your bike stolen in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a very safe country. For humans, that is. For bicycles it’s an entirely different matter. If bikes had a consciousness we would likely face a mass emigration of Dutch bikes. On average, 311 bicycles are stolen here each day according to the ANWB.

Majority of bikes stolen at home

A study conducted by the Dutch cycling association concluded that 45 percent of stolen bicycles are taken from the direct vicinity of one’s home. City centres account for 20 percent of stolen bikes in the Netherlands, while 18 percent are stolen from around train stations.

While a determined bike thief with professional cutting tools, a van and enough time cannot be deterred 100 percent, there are some things that you can do to protect your property, in order to frustrate criminals and to slow them down.

Preventing bicycle theft in the Netherlands

As a general rule of thumb, always, ALWAYS lock your bike. Even if you’re "just" going inside somewhere for a couple minutes to buy a pack of gum.

There are many things you can do to protect your property and to discourage theft:

Don’t buy a stolen bike. If you buy a used bike and the owner can’t show you an original proof of purchase, you can check the stolen bicycle registry that’s maintained by the Dutch police.

Even unwittingly buying a stolen bicycle can lead to legal problems, and the police can take your bike. Prior to buying a used bicycle, verify whether the serial number has been scratched through and whether the original lock is undamaged.

Register your bike. You can register your bike at the place of purchase or online, free-of-charge.

For your own information, write down the manufacturer, model number, colour and any other unique identifying characteristics of your bike.

Let someone engrave your bike, even if it has a serial number. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities provide this service free-of-charge.

Engraving your bike makes it easier to check whether a second-hand bike has been stolen, and it’s a visible deterrent against theft. On this page you can check when and where you can get your bike engraved in Amsterdam, with a so-called bicycle tattoo.

Install a theft prevention chip. This enables police to trace your bike if stolen.

Buy a small GPS tracker to hide on your bike. It will tell you where your bicycle is at all times, which makes it easier for police to get it back for you.

Invest in a good lock, don’t just buy the cheapest one. Spend at least 30-40 euros on a hardened steel lock or a U-lock.

It's recommended to use two locks, of different types, as thieves are often specialised in a single kind of lock. This organisation tests bike locks and awards a seal of approval to the best ones.

Where and how to lock your bike

You can save yourself a lot of trouble by paying a little extra attention to where and how you lock up your bicycle.

Don’t park your bike if there is a sign that explicitly prohibits parking of bicycles. City employees will remove your bike due to illegal parking and you will have to pick it up at a bicycle repository, or fietsdepot (see further on for more information on this).

When you see a white sign with black print that says Fietsen worden verwijderd (bikes will be removed) it means you should look for a different spot.

Use bicycle parking facilities when possible. Attendants decrease the chance of theft.

Use bicycle racks when possible. You can attach the chain to the rack.

If there is no bicycle rack, use any solid object attached to the ground (tree, pole, fence and so on).

Lock the rear wheel or the frame, not the front wheel. The front wheel is typically easy to remove.

With a U-lock, don’t lock it in the centre of your frame. By lifting and turning the bike on its axis, the lock can pop open.

Lock it high. If the chain to your lock is on the ground, a rock can be used to smash it open. Also, more force can be applied to bolt cutters when the chain is on the ground.

Lock your bike in plain sight and in busy, well-lit areas.

What should you do when your bike is gone?

Like many other Dutch cities, Amsterdam removes bikes that have been parked for longer than two weeks, or have been parked illegally, and delivers them to the Bicycle Depository (fietsdepot) where they are registered and checked for evidence of theft.

Removed bikes are stored at the Bicycle Depository for three months, during which time their owners can retrieve them. Only about 25 percent of bikes are collected, likely because many owners mistakenly assume that their bike has been stolen.

Bikes that are not collected from the Bicycle Depository after three months are used for employment and reintegration projects, or are auctioned off to second-hand dealers.

Many Dutch cities have bicycle depositories, so checking there is worth it if your bike disappears. This national Dutch database of lost items often lists bicycles that have been collected by city workers.

Has your bicycle been stolen?

Contact the police by phone (0900 8844) or you can fill in a police report online. Only when you submit a police report will your bike be added to the stolen bicycle registry that’s maintained by the Dutch police. You also need the police report for insurance reasons.

Of bikes that are reported stolen in the Netherlands, only about 7 percent are recovered. For bikes with a chip or frame number, it’s about 15 percent.

Without making a police report you will definitely not get your bicycle back, so it’s still worth the time even if chances are slim.

Have you had your bicycle stolen in the Netherlands? Could you have done something to prevent it?

Thomas Lundberg


Thomas Lundberg

Born as a Swede in the Netherlands, this life-long expat has spent his time in Belgium, the United States and Amsterdam. He began his professional career as a regional news...

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