Help! My bike got stolen! What do I do?

Help! My bike got stolen! What do I do?

What to do when your bike is stolen in a few easy steps: where to check, how to easily report the stolen bike and what are the chances to get it back.

“Hulp! Mijn fiets is gestolen!” In case you own a bike in the Netherlands, sooner or later you’ll probably think of this phrase. Unfortunately, over half Million (!) bikes get stolen each year in the land of cheese and windmills, and there are reports of people losing 10 or more bikes in couple years’ span.

The thief rips off the front wheel and rides off on the back wheel

The thief rips off the front wheel and rides off on the back wheel

The immediate feeling of despair, in some cases accompanied by semi-loud cursing thieves, is only a beginning. But what should you do then?

STEP 1: Calm down and wake up your inner detective

  • Aren’t you standing 10 meters from your bike in a different parking row? Didn’t it just fall down from the stand? Stress of losing a bike blurs your vision. Also, there are plenty of reports of drunk people moving the bikes to different spots (one of the reasons you should always anchor your bike when locking, by the way). Have a proper look around.
  • Your bike may have been just towed away by the city. Check for “no parking” signs in the area, and eventually a municipality worker. Check if there are other bikes parked where your bike was (there are usually no bikes left by the towing service). Eventually, make sure to check your city's bike depot later.
  • Also not the case? If the bike was really stolen, chances are the thief is still around. Look into all directions for people on a bike, or carrying one.

Sometimes it takes just a second of your distraction, but you may have a chance of catching the thief. Like this guy:

If all fails, try and see if there are any CCTV cameras around. They might be of a help later – to you or to police. This article can help you next time to outsmart the thieves.

STEP 2: Check the bike depots' register of removed bikes

Cities “clean” the city from wrecks and badly parked bicycles, and take them to FietsDepots (bike depots), where the bikes are stored for a while, usually couple weeks. Check your local depot, and also the national “Verloren of Gevonden” database where bikes from all depots across the Netherlands should be added.

STEP 3: Always report your bike

You’ll often hear that “police doesn’t do anything about it anyway, so why should I report” argument. Indeed, of course that police is not able to actively search for each of the 500,000 lost bikes. But at the very least you get the bike tagged as stolen, and even if it doesn’t serve anything else, once it is legally recognised as stolen, it will be eventually harder to resell, and the new owners will be committing crime, too. And you never know, maybe it is found by police once (quite a lot of bikes are), or towed away by the city (as literally hundreds of thousands bikes each year) – and even FietsDepots are obliged to check the stolen bikes database.

All in all, by reporting the bike, you push your chances much higher, and possibly prevent more crime on top.

PRO TIP: You can even report online, or set up a meeting by phone (0900-8844) on any of the police stations.

Note: Providing police with the frame number is crucial. This is also where most people give up and say that “police doesn’t do anything anyway”. Check this article for more information on frame numbers and how to locate it on your bike.

STEP 4: Check the places where the bike could be resold

This is a last instance, but still worth a try – check Marktplaats and the Facebook groups serving the purpose of reselling bikes, and maybe even post about your loss. You need to search fast, though – thieves sell stolen bikes this way usually within hours to days after you lose the bike. It’s a bit of a lottery on how dumb “your” thief is, but it worked many times before.

STEP 5: Not least, do not give up easily

Many thieves end up like this:

…and you literally never know when your bike might get back to you.

Want to avoid getting into this situation next time check our tips:

Anti-theft 1.0: The basics of bike locking

The Science of Bike Locking: Outsmart the Thieves!

Bike locks: How do I choose the right one?! The ultimate guide.

Frame number: The real hero of the bike theft battle & how it can save your bike