Unexpected Surprise Dredged Up From Bottom of Local Canal


It’s a well known fact that Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, as bikes are said to even outnumber permanent residents. But with 165 canals making up a combined length of roughly 60 miles across the city, it stands to reason that occasionally the errant bicycle might find its way to a watery grave.

Apparently, this happens pretty regularly. So regularly, in fact, that Amsterdam employs a practice called “bicycle fishing” to remove an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 cycles from the city’s canals each year. It’s become such an issue that Amsterdam has even set a Guinness World Record for “most bicycles recovered from [a city’s] waterways.”

To see this bicycle fishing in action is a whole different story, however, which is why a video began making the rounds on the platform formerly known as Twitter this week. Barges outfitted with giant metal claws—similar to the claw machines found in everyday arcades—are tasked with pulling debris out of the water. In the video, the claw can be seen doing its work before the camera pans to a pile of dozens of bikes that have already been removed.

“Finding some surprises while cleaning the canals of Amsterdam,” posted an account that focuses on “interesting science, gadgets, history, art, and more.” Within just one day, the video has been viewed over 22 million times and counting.

Finding some surprises while cleaning the canals of Amsterdam. pic.twitter.com/QsEJgj5GHM

— Fascinating (@fasc1nate) September 18, 2023

As to why so many bikes end up in the water, the tourism website Dutch Amsterdam chalks it up to theft and vandalism.

One local skipper, Tido Anema told the local TV station NH Nieuws that many sunken bikes are found near bike racks. “There are people who arrive, they can’t park their bicycle and when they see one that is not locked to the rack, they throw it in,” Anema explained. “Or rowdy youngsters who see a loose bicycle and think let’s toss it in the water.”

“On sonar I check whether I see irregularities on the bottom of the canal,” Anema continued. “If I see an irregularity, I give [his co-worker Raymond Muller] a signal. He then uses the gripper.”

“Sometimes we are lucky, sometimes not. It’s like at the fair,” Muller, who controls the crane in front of the boat, added. “Every bite is a surprise really. Tido can see what’s on the screen, but in principle every bite is exciting.”

In addition to bicycles, workers sometimes recover other items from waterways such as fridges, shopping carts, and even cars. But unfortunately, while some bikes dredged up from Amsterdam canals may still appear serviceable, they all ultimately end up as scrap metal.

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