Bikes in the Harbour: Is yours down there?

You’d be surprised at how many there are

Man it was a chilly weekend in CPH. So I’m glad I warned my friends from the UK to bring extra clothing before they arrived on Wednesday afternoon. The couple flew in from the South West of England where temperatures are slightly milder than the rest of the country, so I expected it to be a bit of a shock for them and their 16-month-old daughter (who refused to keep her gloves on, by the way).

As with most Brits who experience Copenhagen culture for the first time they were shocked / intrigued / curious to see other babies and toddlers sleeping outside cafes in their prams and pushchairs whilst their parents sipped on a nice, warm mug of hot chocolate or chai latte inside. And of course they were impressed at the amount of cyclists streaming past, despite the sleet and snow and close to freezing temperatures.

bikes, bicycles, stolen, theft, harbour, holmens kanal, cykler, tryveri, københavns havn, photography by matthew james,

The team continue their search for missing and stolen bikes as onlookers take pictures. Temperatures that day were close to freezing

Which is when we all spotted something kinda cool down by Holmens Kanal: a recovery team retrieving abandoned bikes out of the crystal clear waters. There was already quite a little crowd taking pictures of the operation, which included a barge which was already heaving with rusty bicycles covered in aquatic plant life and the such.

bikes, bicycles, stolen, theft, harbour, holmens kanal, cykler, tryveri, københavns havn, photography by matthew james,

A bike is retrieved from the water by the team

The team was made up of at least one scuba diver that we could see, who was using a video camera connected to a monitor onboard the barge. Via the monitor we could see what he was seeing whilst listening to the dialogue between him and the crew. At this point my friend Laura pointed out how cold it must be down there for the diver, before her husband Alan – an independent Hot Tub specialist from South West Spas – replied that a supply of warm water was being pumped in to the diver’s suit, keeping him as comfortable as possible. Only a Hot Tub specialist would notice that!

Slowly and methodically the barge made its way down the canal, with the number of bikes being dragged out increasing every few minutes. Eventually Laura asked a very good question, “How the hell did they all get down there?” On average, 200 bikes go missing every day in Denmark, with the vast majority of them in Copenhagen. What’s more, just one in every 100 bike thefts result in criminal charges, reports the newspaper Politiken.

“If you register your new, expensive bike as stolen, but we do not have a suspect, we cannot investigate the case further,” Kaj Lykke Marlund, spokesperson for Copenhagen Police Station City, told Politiken. “So we can only find it if it is turned in as lost property, if we see it listed on Den Blå Avis, or if we stop someone who is riding it.”

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A member of the team throws another bike on to the pile of recently discovered bikes, tyres and trolleys

But the question still remains: if a bike isn’t stolen for financial gain then what is the reason? Kleptomania, perhaps? A quick getaway from another crime? Throwing a bike in to the harbour seems like a simple if not temporary way to hide evidence. Or maybe it’s the actions of drunk people on a night out. There are dozens of reasons, no doubt. In England we don’t have as many bikes to throw in the rivers that run through city centres, though interestingly, shopping trolleys seem to find their way in to the murky waters on a daily basis. I’d say there’s definitely a link here.

So if you’re new to Denmark and think that crime rates are low then you are absolutely correct. But, don’t forget to spend a little extra on a decent bike lock, otherwise you might find yourself identifying your precious mode of transport in a Canal Barge lineup this winter.

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Bikes and a mobility trolley can be seen onboard the barge

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen recovered from the waters of Copenhagen or your home town? Sign off below, with pictures if you have them.

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