Bicycle Theft in Amsterdam: How to Get Your Bike Back

“Good locks can’t prevent bicycles from being stolen. And few Dutch people report bike theft to the police because they think that the police won’t do anything about it.”

That’s the gist of this video report filmed by Radio Netherlands at the bicycle parking flat next to Amsterdam Central Station:

Bike theft in Amsterdam

Bike theft is a fact of life in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Police and the Cyclists’ Union estimate that each year between 50.000 and 80.000 bikes are stolen.1

Mind you: 58 percent of bicycles are stolen from in front of someone’s own house, and most bikes thefts take place during the daytime.

Stolen bikes — The Law: Never buy a bicycle from someone in the street. Both the seller and the buyer will be fined, and depending on the circumstance both risk getting a criminal record and a possible jail sentence.

But you can of course minimize the chance that your bike gets taken.

Use a sturdy lock

As the above video suggests, one way to try and prevent your bike from being stolen is to use several sturdy locks. Thieves are more likely to steal bikes secured only by a standard lock.

Use a sturdy bicycle lock

Lock your bike properly

It is important that your learn how to lock your bike in such as way that individual parts cannot be stolen either. Otherwise you may end up with only a well-secured front wheel:

Lock your bicycle properly

Note that in Amsterdam it is illegal to chain your bike to a lamp post, a tree, or a bridge railing.

Personalize your bike

In addition to the use of sturdy locks many Amsterdammers use a more creative approach to deter bike thieves.

Bicycle thieves prefer to steal nondescript bikes instead of, say, ones adorned with flowers:

Personanlize your bicycle

Almost as good as proper insurance against bicycle theft

or bikes painted in distinctive colors:

Custom pain your bike

Park in a well-lit area

It is also a good idea to park your bicyle near a street light:

Park your bicycle near a light

Don’t go overboard

But you should not go out of your way to find overly creative parking solutions:

bike parking

The Fietsdepot — Bicycle Repository

If your bicycle is missing it may have been stolen. However, if you parked it illegally, including exceeding the maximum parking time — or the way you parked it created a hindrance or unsafe situation — it may instead have been removed by city district officials or the police.

  • In 2013, 73.784 were brought to the Fietsdepot
  • Almost 60 percent (43.583) were parked illegally
  • Almost 40 percent (29.024) of the bikes were neglected
  • Just 49 percent of owners bother to get their bikes back
  • In 2014, an almost equal number of bikes were removed.
  • Of these 70.000 bikes, 10.000 were removed for exceeding the maximum parking time. 30.000 bikes created a nuisance or a dangerous situation, and 30.000 were in a dilapidated state.2

In that case, all such bicycles are transported to the Fietsdepot (bicycle depository).

If it is determined that the bike was stolen, it will be returned to the rightful owner — free of charge (within Amsterdam).

If your bicycle was removed, you can either pick it up or have it delivered.

Until recently (November 2014) bicycles were stored for up to three months. However, after two weeks so few people bother to come and collect their bicycles that this has now been reduced to six weeks.

Statistics show that less than half (49 percent) of bike owners bother to come and collect their property. Those who do must pay a € 15,00 fee, or € 30,00 if you elect to have your bike delivered. Note: Starting January 2016 these rates will be €22,50 and €35,00 respectively. No cash! Fees can only be paid by debit (PIN) or credit card. 3 You must show an ID and bring along your bicycle keys.

All remaining bikes are either scrapped (about half of all bikes brought aren’t good for anything else), donated to social work projects and/or to third-world countries. Whatever remains is auctioned off. Those bikes usually end of with second-hand bike dealers.

What to do if your bike is stolen or removed

Call the Fietsdepot

Have Your Bike Engraved
You can have your bike ‘tattood’ for free, between 10:30 am and 3:30 pm on the days and at the locations listed here.

Bring an ID if you want your bike registered to your name.

If your bike is missing, first call to check whether the bike depository has it: (020) 334 4522 [Amsterdam phone info]

You must be able to describe your bike. What are its unique features? It’s not for nothing that so many Dutch folks decorate their bikes. Better yet, have it engraved and/or registered to your name.

If you’re going to pick up your bike, bring your ID, your bicycle key(s), and a debit card (PIN) or credit card to pay the € 15,00 fee Note: Starting January 1,2016 the fee will be €22,50. Remember, no cash!

TIP: You can elect to have your bike delivered to your home, for a fee of €30,00 (€35,00 starting January 1, 2016).

The Fietsdepot is about ten kilometers from the center of Amsterdam. This is something people complain loudly about, since it is ‘in the middle of nowhere.’ You can reach it by taking bus 82 from Amsterdam-Sloterdijk station (direction IJmuiden), bus stop Westpoortweg.

Call the Police
If the Fietsdepot doesn’t have your bike, call the police — using the non-emergency number: 0900 8844.

Finished with your Bike?

If you want to get rid of your bike — either because it’s a wreck or you don’t want to go through the trouble of selling it — that’s easy.

Call 14020 and someone from the City of Amsterdam will come and pick it up, free of charge. Mind you, that works until December 31, 2015. However, that deadline has been extended several times, so it won’t hurt to check beyond that date.

arrow One in three Amsterdammers rides bike to work
arrow I want to ride my bicycle in Amsterdam

This article was first published April 22nd, 2010. It has been updated and revised.


  1. Note: There are more bikes (881.000) in Amsterdam than there are citizens (811.000) – Source: Amsterdam in Cijfers 2014. O+S, Research and Statistics, City of Amsterdam
  2. The report these numbers came from did not yet include final statistics for the year.
  3. Until November 2014 these fees were lower: € 10 and € 20 respectively. The city says prices will be further increased in steps, as it aims to recoup the € 76,00 per bike it spends to pick up and store each bike.
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This post was last updated: Dec. 9, 2015    

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