That was the result of a study by consumer website Geld.de, which assessed the rate of bike thefts in 127 cities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It found that 360,000 bikes had been stolen in the three countries last year.
The German city of Münster was top of the list with 1,828 bikes stolen per 100,000 residents. The Swiss capital was a close second at 1,826.
“Bern is a bike town,” Peter Hirter of the Bern Cantonal Police told Der Bund newspaper. He said that outside the central train station was a particularly vulnerable spot when it came to the risk of bikes being stolen.
“Most bicycles in Bern go missing because someone has needed a set of wheels in a hurry,” Hirter said. Many commuters use inexpensive bikes to get to and from the train station. These are then left there all day and are often not particularly securely locked.
It is this type of cheap bike that is usually favoured by the bike crook. “The thief assumes that the loss is not too painful,” Hirter told the paper.
Hirter added that if bikes were issued with licenses it would make his officers’ work much easier. Currently it is hard to prove that someone does not own the bike they are in possession of.
However, there is often a happy ending. Heinz Pfeuti, spokesman for the Bern Cantonal Police, said that around half of all stolen bikes are returned to their owners after being found dumped elsewhere.