More and more people in Groningen are choosing to rent a bicycle rather than to buy one. Behind this trend is people’s fear of getting their bike stolen and having to again invest large in a new bike. This fear is backed up by the fact that in the student city around 2000 bikes are reported stolen every year.
“Those bikes tend to get stolen a lot less cause they’re very recognizable. I used to have a bike pretty much exactly like this, except it wasn’t a Swapfiets and it got stolen so many times,” explained Belgian student Fabrice Dumar who opted for a rental.
These stories are very common and one of the main reasons why people are turning to rentals. For example, if a rental bike is locked properly, the popular bike rental service Swapfiets will give users a new bike for a 40-to-60-euro fee.
The line at the popular bike rental company in Groningen usually extends outside the store. The streets of Groningen are filled with Swapfiets rentals.
But even rental bikes aren’t fully protected. Marit Mink started renting from Swapfiets when four of her bikes got stolen. After that her double locked rental was stolen in front of her house.
“I went to the Swapfiets store to pay the 40 euro fee and get a new one. They said that five other bikes stolen that same day,” recalled Mink. “It’s just like a culture here.”
Mink assumes rentals are making a lot of money off this fear, because the service is getting more expensive by the year. “They tell a smart story to their customers,” she assessed.
Stolen in thousands
Statistics show that around 2000 bikes and mopeds are stolen every year. Swapfiets themselves answered that they don’t share specific numbers for cities about their rentals.
As of July, 1329 bikes and mopeds have been reported stolen this year. Data: www.data.politie.nl
But these official numbers don’t tell the whole truth, because many don’t even bother to file a report to the police.
Local Annelise Dols lost her bike because she forgot to lock it during a night in the city. She did not report it and just got a rental. “Bikes get stolen here all the time and I didn’t see the point,” suggesting that the problem is even more severe.
Nothing is done
But what are the local police doing about the underground bike market in Groningen and why so many bikes are stolen?
This is a felony site in the center of Groningen. Not even a good lock can guarantee safety, the bike racks can be cut easily.
They do not want to answer these questions and declined our request for interview. A Dutch police PR-representative in the North region, Tessel Horsman replied that they are not able to fit these questions into their agenda.
On the web, the Dutch police only mention prevention and targeted checks as methods to fight the biggest crime type in the city. Thorough investigation in to these felonies is not mentioned.
A Groningen patrol officer, who said he is not allowed to give interviews to journalists because of PR-guidelines, but was willing to summarize the problem simply: “The Netherlands is a country of bicycles. And when there is need, there is a market.”