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VIDEO: Bicycle Treasure Hunt in Amsterdam Canals

By Frantiska Blazkova

Many things have been written and said about the cycling heaven that is the Netherlands, and specifically Amsterdam, and many more will follow. But having more bicycles than actual city inhabitants and roughly 97 kilometres of water canals comes with a very peculiar problem. One way or the other, the stylish city bikes tend to end up underwater very often. And that’s where the specialized crew, equipped with an impressive crane claw boat thing, comes to the spotlight.

Both Jan de Jonge and Swavek Vervoort are skippers and members of the team that rescue bikes from their watery graves at the bottom of one of Amsterdam’s 165 canals. Jan claims in the video that he’s already lost count of the bicycles they “rescue” on a daily basis, but his yearly estimate ranges between 15,000 to 20,000. What is a lot crazier, though, is the notion that if the bike-angling team stopped doing their job, not only the canals would be heavily littered, but the bike piles would eventually rise above the water surface.

And how do such great numbers of bicycles end up in these hostile and wet conditions? According to Vervoort, there are two main reasons: 20 % of the incidents are caused by the wind and the other 80 % by partygoers, throwing random bikes into water after a binge-drinking night.

And what happens to the trashed bikes after they’re removed? They get recycled and turned into soda and beer cans. Which is pretty ironic, if you think about it. A drunken tourist throws a bike into a canal, the bike gets recycled into a beer can, off which another tourist gets drunk, and this vicious cycle (pun intended) continues.

This feature was shot by Great Big Story as a part of their Planet Earth series, this time shifting from our animal neighbours to human habitats.