I heard this peculiar story about 20,000 bicycles are fished from the canals.

Found a video that show how its fished out

It's tragic, why can't they be recycled?

  • I'm sure they can be recycled, and I would assume they are, if they are fished out. As to how they got there, hard to say. Some stolen, some just tossed to get rid of. Used bikes, unless in pristine condition, are not worth much. Our bike rehab group has hundreds sitting outside under tarps, because people give them to us faster than we can deal with them. Sep 3, 2017 at 1:03
  • Guessing - its that there are a lot of bikes in Amsterdam, and 20k (per year?) is still a small percentage of the total. And that there are many canals and yobs in Amsterdam.
    – Criggie
    Sep 4, 2017 at 2:43
  • @Criggie 20k bikes per year is 55 per day, which does seem to be quite a lot of yobbery. Sep 4, 2017 at 7:49
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby yes, the "per year" part is an assumption on my part. According to amsterdamfaq.com/1/amsterdam "According to the most recent figures, the 850.000 residents (442.693 households) of Amsterdam together own 847.000 bicycles. That represents 1.91 bicyles per household. 78% of people 12 years and older owns at least one bike. Bonus fact: each year between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes are fished up from city’s canals." so that's 1.4% to 1.7% of the total bike population.
    – Criggie
    Sep 4, 2017 at 9:15
  • It's the Amsterdam Mafia, giving "friendly" warnings to people who cross them.
    – EvilSnack
    Sep 4, 2017 at 23:25

3 Answers 3


Why do you think they aren't recycled? EU legislation is pretty strict on what can go in landfill and it would be very surprising if the bikes fished out of the canals aren't recycled (i.e., melted down and the metal used for something new). 20,000 bikes is going to be at least 200 tons of scrap metal.

After being underwater for a while, the bikes are probably sufficiently badly damaged that their parts can't be re-used: components such as bearings would probably be damaged beyond economical repair and structural components such as the frame and wheels would have corroded to an unknown amount and can't be guaranteed to be safe.

  • 1
    Yep, our small group hauls hundreds of bikes off to the recycler. Unfortunately, scrap steel isn't worth much these days, especially since it's generally "contaminated" with so many other materials. Sep 3, 2017 at 13:00

Various options:

  • stolen bikes which are too risky to carry along
  • drunken/stoned people's act
  • vandalism (I have often seen bikes with the wheel bent to badly like somebody jumped on the sprokets just to damage them)
  • accidents (poorly parked bikes can actually fall in the canals when hit)
  • poorly parked droipping by accident is hilarious. - i doubt more than 100 are dropped my mistake... lol
    – nolawi
    Sep 5, 2017 at 0:23

so the bikes might not get recycled because the bikes have been in the canal so long that the bike parts deteriorate and corrode to the point of not being fixable. Now, I have never been to amsterdam and don't plan on it, but it could possibly salt water, and salt water is a moving part's worse nightmare.

  • This was voted down but I find this quite plausible. Bottom brackets, head sets, and wheel hubs of submerged bikes will fail quickly and are expensive to replace. Sep 3, 2017 at 7:46
  • 4
    @ChristianLindig Re-use and recycling are two different things. Water damaged bikes and their components probably can't be re-use but they surely can be recycled (i.e., melted down and the metal used for something new). Sep 3, 2017 at 10:54
  • 2
    A bike that is simply left outside & unprotected for a year or so will generally become too corroded to be worthwhile to fix (unless the labor is free). Sep 3, 2017 at 13:01

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