Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
Ten minutes before we are supposed to meet, my mobile phone rings: “I’m going to be late, my bike got stolen again”, my friend explains in a frustrated voice. This was already his second bike. It seems that bike-stealing season has started; stories about missing bikes are popping up all around. But what to do when a bike goes missing? One friend of mine suggests: “Once your bike gets stolen, you’re entitled to steal yourself one as well – it’s only fair”.
For people with a less criminal mind and a more conservative sense of justice, there must be other options. One is through the police, I soon find out. Every last Sunday of the month, you can go there and pick yourself a cheap bike out of the masses of stolen or wrongly parked bikes that were never reclaimed, I’m told. The only condition: You need to have reported your own bike as stolen before claiming another.
A different option is to rely on coincidence and go look for your bike around town. “I found my friend’s bike locked at the station about a week after it was stolen. I just put my lock around it and the next day, the other lock was gone”, a student tells me. Of course, this is a rather farfetched ending to the bike-less nightmare. There are also several second-hand bike-sellers around. And with that I don’t mean the shady individuals who asked me two weeks ago, while I was drawing out money, if I wanted to spend it on the (probably recently stolen) bike they were holding.
Close to the station, there is a legal second-hand bike store, where you can get bikes as cheap as €30. “Of course, you don’t want to get a bike that looks too nice or new”, somebody warns me. And it is also smart to make your bike stand out of the crowd, for example with a flashy paint job. Thieves are more attracted to bikes that blend in and are thus harder to be reclaimed by their rightful owners.
And what about getting rid of locks altogether? We only use public bikes when we need to, and leave them in a public place when we don’t. Talking to others about it, I am informed that a project like this already exists in many cities and has failed miserably in Amsterdam, because people would just steal the designated and therefore unlocked bikes (I guess that’s why communism failed; it’s just not practical). So we continue going through at least one bike a year, frustrated and always on the verge of becoming criminals ourselves.
Every week UCM student Janina Weser explores the city of Maastricht