Amsterdam is the world’s most bicycle-friendly city, with 40 to 60 percent of all trips within the city taken by bike. Some estimate that the city has between 880,000 and a million bicycles, which is greater than the city’s permanent population by up to 20%. Amsterdam also boasts a lot of canals – 165 in total, with a total length of 100 kilometers. Unavoidably, some of the bicycles become wet. Did I mention some? What about 15,000 people? Every year, so many bicycles are recovered from Amsterdam’s canals. Indeed, fishing for bicycles is a full-time job in the city.
Waternet, the body in charge of maintaining the canals clean, uses a massive hydraulic claw to pull bicycles from the canal bed. The claw is attached to a crane on the front of a barge. The company has been bike fishing since the 1960s and continues to do so daily.
Nobody knows why Amsterdam inhabitants toss so many bikes into the canals, but the custom of dumping objects into the canals dates back a long time. The canals used to be an open sewer in the past. Because there was no sewer system in Amsterdam, the canals served as an open bathroom and trash can for the city’s residents.
Amsterdam became aware of the problem in 1860 and began cleaning up the canals. However, many Amsterdamers haven’t completely abandoned the custom of putting things into their drinks, especially when they’re inebriated. Most bicycles recovered from canals are thought to have been stolen or vandalized. The Amsterdam Police estimate that between 50,000 and 80,000 bikes are stolen yearly; however, relatively few people report bike theft to the police because they believe the police will do nothing.
The majority of the motorcycles dredged from waterways end up as scrap metal. Bikes aren’t the only things that get entangled in the massive metal claws. Workers occasionally brought up other items, such as refrigerators and cars. Every year, 35 to 50 autos are washed into the canals. In most situations, they are the consequence of an accident, but vandalism can also play a role. When such an accident is recorded, the Fire Brigade employs a special dive crew to fish out cars.
Bike fishing has become a distinctive tourist attraction in Amsterdam.