Bike theft a big headache for cyclists in Greece’s capital

Christophe Manier was born in France. When he was a student there, he used to cycle to university and leave his bike in the courtyard. When lessons were over, he would collect his bicycle and ride home. For the past few years, Christophe has lived in Athens. Every now and then he used to go on excursions in the countryside on his bike, and then one day he decided to use it to get to work. «I decided to leave it at Neratziotissa electric railway station,» which is near where he lives, «and go the rest of the way on the suburban railroad,» he told Kathimerini. Unfortunately, the very first time he did so, a few weeks back, his bicycle disappeared. «I’d secured it but they broke the lock,» he said. He was disappointed that nobody had noticed anything strange, neither the people at the kiosk opposite nor the railroad employees at the station. «Why don’t they put a security camera there?» he asked. After that experience, if he buys a new bicycle it will be a cheap one, he said, «but I’ll pay more for something better, a really good lock.» There are many similar cases. Bicycle thieves are adept at spiriting away their gains without being spotted even in busy areas. «Most cyclists have had it happen at least once. Many of them don’t secure their bicycles with a good lock or chain,» explained Nikos Kostakis, a member of the Podilatisses bike group. People who have lost a bicycle can post the details – the make, model, frame number and any distinguishing marks – on the website. The same website also gives advice on how to make your bike recognizable, in case you get the chance to later identify it. The number of bikes listed on the site confirms that thefts are common, yet few cyclists report the loss to the police. «The odds of finding a lost bike are poor,» said Kostakis, «and the value of a bicycle ranges from 50-70 euros up to 1,000 euros.» He pointed out that the chances of locating a bike and proving ownership are even lower when the owner doesn’t know the frame number. Just last month, police arrested two men in Maroussi who had stolen 10 cycles in Halandri and Aghia Paraskevi, then sold them on for 50 euros apiece in Omonia, which is the destination of most stolen bicycles. A stroll around Menandrou, Sophocleous and Athinas streets in Omonia may prove lucky for someone whose bike has been stolen. There’s an informal bazaar there, and some owners whose bikes were stolen a day or so beforehand have managed to find theirs and buy them back for 30-50 euros, said Kostakis. The bicycles disappear from sight when police patrol the area, but reappear later, as riders parade them around to demonstrate them to potential buyers. Many impounded bicycles are held in the City of Athens municipal police’s basement garage. «We hold onto them for six to eight months, then give them away, in accordance with regulations,» Athens Municipal Police Chief Stelios Krassas told Kathimerini. «Our information is that 80 percent of them are stolen,» he said. «The municipality impounds them from places they are not permitted to be, such as tied up to things like trees, posts and signs.»