Bike Fishing: A Dutch Occupation You Never Knew Existed

Amsterdam is the most bicycle-friendly city in the world, with 40% to 60% of all trips within the city made on bikes. Some estimate that there are between 880,000 and a million bicycles in the city, which is more than the city’s permanent population by as much as 20%. Amsterdam also has lots of canals — 165 to be exact — with a combined length of 62 miles. Unavoidably, some of those bicycles end up in the water. Actually, it’s more like 15,000 of them wind up underwater each year. So, how are bicycles retrieved from the canals? Believe it or not, fishing for bicycles is a full-time occupation for the city. Waternet — the agency responsible for keeping the canals clean — employs a huge hydraulic claw to fish bicycles out of the canals. The claw is connected to a crane that sits on the front of a barge. The company has been bike fishing since the 1960s and they do it every day. It’s believed the most of the bikes fished out of the canals are either stolen or victims of vandalism. Amsterdam police estimate that between 50,000 and 80,000 bikes are stolen each year, yet very few people report bike theft because they think the police won’t do anything about it. Most of the bikes dredged up end up as scrap metal.