Nieuws - 14 november 2013

Blog: Paint it over

‘You should paint your bike over. How about a zebra pattern?’ remarks a Dutch friend, pointing at my black old-fashioned ‘grandma bike’. ‘Why?’ I inquire. He explains with flawless, weather-proof Dutch logic: ‘Then it won’t get stolen.’ After a pause: ‘well… not so easily at least.’

I have proudly been riding this bike for the past three years. It has some inconveniences - my feet hardly reach the ground when I stop, and it weighs more than me, so that it literally drags me along. But I could not do without it. The thought that someone may steal it is a daunting one.

Bike theft is an omnipresent risk in the Netherlands, and Wageningen is no exception. Many of my friends have already experienced bike theft. It’s impressive how fatalistic Dutch people come across on the matter. It seems that bicycle theft is a tolerated underground activity in the Netherlands, against which it is up to the citizen to take measures.

These measures are not always obvious to international students. In the WUR student guide 2013—2014, one can harvest essential anti-theft tips. One is: ‘A non-attractive bike has less chance of being stolen’. What’s unattractive? Rust? Mud? Barbed wire? Another tip: 'Buy a good lock when you buy a bike.' The perplexed international student then buys, best case, a mid-priced Hema lock, which is about as sturdy as a nutcracker made in China.

My peer’s recommendation, instead, reflects the Dutch practice to ‘personalize’ one’s bike (some makeovers make me wonder if the Cirque du Soleil is coming into town) to discourage petty burglars from taking it away and selling it on the black market.

So I decided to go Dutch. These people know their way around, when it comes to bikes. Apparently, an eye catching and, obviously, non-removable bike makeover is the safest measure against theft. Yes, safer than a mid-priced Hema lock.  

Just do me a favour, awesome Wageningen eco-dandies: leave the zebra patterned one alone.


Hello! I am Camilla, new Resource blogger. I grew up in an Italian town by the Alps. This is my fourth year in the Netherlands, I studied Sociology and Politics at University College Maastricht before moving to Wageningen to study International Development. I still don't speak Dutch, but you can ask me where the toilet is or 'how late it is', I will understand. Like: overhearing bits of random conversations. Hate: arguing - especially on Facebook.