Not just thieves: What to do when the council takes your bike

Nothing sinks the heart more than walking out of the station to find your bike is missing. The question is, was it stolen or was it seized?

The Netherlands is best known for their bike culture. In recent years, the growing population of bikes, particularly in and around main stations, has grown to insurmountable levels.

In 2012, government initiatives started to warn people about where they could legally park their bikes, yet if you're new to the Netherlands, the thought of not being able to park your bike anywhere, could come as quite a surprise.

The law around parking your bike

Believe it or not, each city has their own specific rules, along with certain areas around the city that are considered red zones of caution. These laws were put into place to regulate vastly congested areas as well as avoid any hazards from potentially taking place.

As a rule of thumb, if your bike is not parked in designated areas, such as the main station’s bike garage or locked up to a bike stand, it will get a sticker. In most cases, you will get a mere 30 minutes from the time the sticker is placed on your bike, to move it.

Unfortunately, most people do not return to their bikes in time, granting the city council permission to take your bike to the not-so-local bicycle depot.

Even if you have parked your bike legally, you should also be aware that bikes are only allowed to be parked for a duration of seven consecutive days at a time before they get a warning label. In this instance, the owner has two days to remove the bike before it gets sent to the depot.

It is worth noting that bikes with a motor have their own designated areas which are not shared with normal bicycles. It may appear that you can park your bike next to a moped, but you’ll soon find that it may just get lifted there as well. In these areas, there are signposts, though above eye-level and therefore not the most obvious place to look. 

Getting your bike back 

Once you notice your bike is missing you need to figure out whether it has been stolen or whether it has in fact been taken by the city council.

Luckily, the Verloren of Gevonden website is dedicated to listing all bikes that have been found along with the date and location it was taken, a description of the bike, lock and any features that make it stand out, the frame number, and where to go to get it back.

Unfortunately, most of the depots are situated outside of town and thus, require some travelling. Once you get there, you need to make sure that you have a valid form of identification and a Dutch bank card as most depots will not accept cash.

The amount you have to pay will depend on whether you parked your bike incorrectly, whether you abandoned it, or whether you left it a wreck.

Generally, the fee for a bike that hasn’t been parked legally is around 20 euros if you collect it or an extra 10 to 15 euros if you want it to be sent back to an accessible location in town. For the latter, the penalty is 50 euros.

If you parked your bike incorrectly, the city council will keep it for up to six weeks. If you abandoned your bike, or left behind a bike wreck, then you only have two weeks to claim it.

Make sure you check your bike works and that they have not snipped through your breaks trying to cut through the bike lock. It is up to the city council to fix any damages incurred during the procedure.

It is rare that city councils will seize bikes at the weekend, but it’s always good to be safe rather than sorry.

Bike seizure hotspots and depots

Here are some locations where you need to be more careful when parking your bike, along with where to collect it if it gets taken.


Bike seizure hotspots: Central Station, Leidseplein
Depot: Fietsdepot Westelijk Havengebied

Den Haag

Bike seizure hotspots: Central Station, Hollands Spoor, and RandstadRail Station Leidschenveen 
Depot: Fietsdepot Haaglanden


Bike seizure hotspots: Central Station, Station Blaak, Markthal, Zuidplein, het Prins Alexanderplein en Capelsebrug
Depot: Fietspunt Rotterdam Alexander

On the off chance that your bike has not been taken by the city council, you may have to report it stolen. Find out how to report a stolen bike, or avoid having it taken in the first place, here

illegal parking sign

Kiri Scully


Kiri Scully

Raised a global citizen, to an Irish father and American mother, Kiri has lived and worked in five countries over three continents. Fuelled by culture curiosity at an early age,...

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Leave a comment

Maria Ojo 00:55 | 20 May 2019

I have a question about the procedure. I left my bike parked, locked to a tree around 1am. It was confiscated and gone by the time I went back for it at 9am. I had a thick lock on it. I assume the council cut through the lock to get the bike. Whose responsibility is it to replace the (€30+) lock?

minasolanki 11:33 | 22 May 2019

Hi Maria, As your bike was removed, it must have been somewhere it was not supposed to be. The lock was therefore cut to remove it. It is, unfortunately, your responsibility to replace the lock. Hope this helps :).

Maex0d 14:31 | 27 August 2019

I have a question: I got an paper on my bike which says : " Fout gestald" . I am not sure whether I have to pay and if yes where to pay....

minasolanki 14:37 | 27 August 2019

Hi Maex0d, it means parked incorrectly (so, probably somewhere that you are not allowed to park). Did the council take your bike? Then you will have to collect it and pay a fine. If it is just a bit of paper saying that, just park it correctly.

Lilla Szabados-... 10:52 | 30 September 2019

Hi! I was wondering if all the bikes that are collected are put up to the website? I can't find mine on there. Does this mean it was not collected but stolen? Should I go to the bike depot just in case or is it unnecessary if I don't have the registration number from the website? Thank you for the help!