Brussels remains a hotbed for bicycle theft

Brussels remains a hotbed for bicycle theft
A secure lock is key for avoiding bike theft. Credit: Markus Spiske at Unplash

Belgians are increasingly choosing bicycles as their preferred mode of transport for daily journeys. Yet as popularity for bicycles grows, so does the number of thefts in Brussels.

Figures from the Brussels Cycling Observatory show that in January 2020 there was a 53% uptake in cyclists compared to January 2019.  Yet the observatory cites a recent study published by Interior Minister Annelise Verlinden. This shows that although bicycle thefts across Belgium as a whole are declining, they continue to rise in the capital.

Nationwide, there were 34,417 recorded bike thefts in 2016. This fell by almost 10,000 to 24,592 in 2020. But in Brussels, it's a different story. Here, there has been a marked rise in stolen bikes – from 3,291 in 2016 to 4,505 in 2020. This is in spite of the city's efforts to clamp down on the issue, including the use of bait bikes to catch out would-be thieves.

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"One of the reasons for the rise in thefts is the increase in cycling," said Aurelie Willems, secretary general of GRACQ,  an association which represents cyclists in French-speaking Belgium. "But police in Brussels are now encouraging victims to report thefts," which Willems believes could be partly responsible for the apparent rise in cases.

In addition, Brussels Mobility has launched a platform to register your bike, which also allows users to report their bike stolen. This should could help prevent their resale.

GRACQ calls for more secure parking areas for bikes near stations and other popular areas, such as near bars and restaurants and is currently in discussions with Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet regarding plans to secure bikes better throughout Belgium.

How to secure your bike

Not all locks are effective, explained Anne LeRoux of Pro Velo, a bike rental service in Brussels. "We advise using D-locks and even a second padlock. The 'ART' label designates the most resistant padlocks and would be a good choice."

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