Yes, I have become a Dutch statistic. My bike has been stolen.
There I was, in wide-eyed disbelief. Paul’s bike was there, just how he’d left it, with the rear wheel still locked up. As for me, I stood there, bike key in hand, staring at the spot where I’d left my own twelve hours earlier. Gone, without a trace.
I hadn’t even given my bike a name. It was just my bike. We’d only just started getting chummy. Only last week we had a day out, going all the way to Rotterdam together. I’d recently spent thirty euro giving it new gears. Now all that has been taken away.
Over half a million bikes are stolen in the Netherlands every year. And that’s actually an improvement; it’s down about fifty per cent from about five years ago. So it happens, you always cross your fingers when you go to retrieve it. This time, I was unlucky.
There are two ways to lock your bike in the Netherlands. There’s the back wheel lock, which means someone can’t simply jump on and cycle away. It’s the easiest and most widespread lock, as all you have to do is carry around a key. The only way someone can steal it is if they physically pick it up and hoist it away, into the back of a van perhaps.
The other type of lock is your old-school U-shape lock or windy coil. I have one of these; I use it to attach the Beast to bunkbeds and the like. The Dutch don’t really use them for their bikes; they’re only really utilised if parked next to a canal. You really don’t want to come back to your bike only to see it floating down the canal because someone thought it would be funny.
In a strange way, the worst thing about getting my bike stolen was the walk home. It took four times the amount it would have if I’d been able to cycle. It felt like a walk of shame.
Paul went out searching the streets last night, and again this morning. He checked out the city park, finding a lot of bike skeletons but not mine. I checked out Marktplaats (the Dutch eBay) but nothing. I’ll report it to the police today, but I don’t expect to hear anything. Bicycle theft has the lowest clearance rate of all crimes, at around five per cent.
It’s still out there. Maybe I’ll see someone whizzing by on it tomorrow. Maybe I will spy it floating down the canal. Perhaps it will be in the bike shop at the train station. Its lights are held together by zip ties and one of my new gears is already kaput. I’ll be able to spot it.
But for now, I’ll just have to rely on our memories together. I’ll always remember Rotterdam, poor bike with no name.