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Bikes on the move: how travel agencies aggravate cycle theft

06:43 15/05/2024

Some travel agencies in Brussels are involved in a large-scale operation to export and re-sell stolen bikes, an investigation has revealed.

According to Bruzz, every day, mountains of bicycles can travel on the roof of lorries destined for Spain and Morocco. These items are then sold on abroad at very low prices.

“We are doing everything we can to dismantle these well-developed networks,” said Tijl De Groot, chief inspector of the Brussels-Capital-Ixelles police zone.

“But this takes time. In many cases, travel agencies are acting in good faith. In other words, they do not know that they are part of an international bike swindle.”

Bruzz took this to the test by asking a travel agency near Brussels-Midi station if it was possible to reserve a trip, and to take bicycles.

The business asked for proof of purchase for the bike as it “has had problems last month from transporting stolen bicycles”.

For Jean-Philippe Gerkens, managing director of bicycle business Morning Cycles, with branches near Schuman and in Saint-Josse, it is clear that some travel agencies are complicit in the handling of stolen goods.

Helping his friend Grégoire to track down his stolen bicycle to the same travel agency near Brussels-Midi, he told Bruzz: “We found it among many other stolen bikes and smartphones.

"I was not really surprised, as these businesses are central to this bike theft network, and have been for a year, and I do not know why more is not done to stop them."

Whether they are acting unwittingly or not, it is as clear as day that travel agents are at least partly responsible for the problem.

The Morning Cycles owner encourages anyone who buys a bicycle to equip it with a digital tracker with a GPS chip and create a numeric passport on online platforms such as and Vélopass.

“These are essential weapons in the fight against the bike thief," he added. "Registering your bicycle online really complicates its resale on the black market. With a tracker, you can see where it has ended up if stolen,” which was the case for Gregoire’s bicycle.

Some 1,500 bicycles are stolen per year in the Brussels region alone. De Groot added that other measures to combat bicycle theft such as the Facebook page Véloflic has also helped.

All six Brussels police zones are now working together and will step up their efforts to find the rightful owners of stolen bikes, he told Bruzz, emphasising: “Good cooperation is essential in the fight against bicycle thieves.”

Written by Liz Newmark