WTF Fun Fact 12906 – People Seem to Love Throwing Bikes in Water

We don’t understand it. It’s a phenomenon that’s still being investigated across the world. What’s behind the desire for people to throw perfectly usable bicycles into waterways like rivers, lakes, and canals? After all, it’s such a waste.

Mistreated bikes are a big problem

Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. And yet, lately, city workers have been pulling out roughly 15,000 bikes each year(!) from canals. There are so many bikes on the bottom of these canals that they sometimes scrape the bottom of barges coming through. And despite that obscenely large number of trashed bikes, it’s actually less of a problem than it was years ago.

Bike-sharing companies have had to pull their bikes out of rivers in Southern China and Rome’s Tiber River as well. In fact, bike-sharing companies have pulled out of some cities because they cost is greater than the reward.

But why on earth are people so wasteful? What’s the point of trashing a (in most cases) perfectly good bike?

Why do people throw bikes in the water?

On a 2022 episode of NPR’s All Things Considered (cited below), author of Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle, Jody Rosen, tried to shed some light on the matter.

She said: “When you see the bicycle go in there and slip below the surface of the water, there’s just a certain satisfaction, a certain free zone in that. And I say that not because I’ve done it myself, mind you. This is a practice which is documented online, for instance, on YouTube quite comprehensively. So there’s lots of videos that you can see where people are tossing bikes into water and taking videos of it for fun and sport. So that is definitely a factor. But there’s all kinds of other types of vandalism that surround this, which I think are interesting.”

Rosen believes bike-sharing programs make it easier for people to take these two-wheelers for granted, noting, “The fact that these bike programs are proliferating across the world, which I think we can say is a good thing — we need more bicycles in the city — but there are simply more of them around. And in fact, you can imagine that people feel a little bit more impunity, that a potential bicycle drowner would feel less guilt attached to tossing a bike in the water if it’s a share bike that has a bank or some sort of corporate sponsor’s logo on the mudguard as opposed to, you know, some individual joe-schmoe’s bike.”

Interestingly, Rosen also thinks there may be a political dimension to this – that somehow people are threatened by bikes because they are so attached to the idea of driving a car. “We’re seeing a kind of increasingly heated debate over what kinds of vehicles belong on the streets of cities. Motorists are reacting to the increased numbers of bicycles on the streets, sometimes with great annoyance and and sometimes with actual violence. So it may be that at least these drowned bikes, these trashed and vandalized bikes reflect a kind of ongoing battle for the right to the roadways,” she suggested.

Whatever the reasons, this is happening all over the world, in bike-friendly cities.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Why do so many bikes end up underwater? The reasons can be weird and varied” — NPR