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German rail company auctions hundreds of abandoned bicycles each year

Published April 03,2024

Last year, the German state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn auctioned off hundreds of abandoned bicycles.

"There are an estimated 2,700 found bicycles at and in our 5,400 railway stations every year," explained a Deutsche Bahn spokeswoman when asked by dpa. Around half of them are auctioned off after being held for at least 10 weeks.

The price the bike fetches at the on-site auction in Berlin-Lichtenberg, for example, depends on the type of bike and its condition. The average auction proceeds are €60 ($64.65) per bike, the spokeswoman said. However, e-bikes have also been auctioned off in various cities, with bids exceeding the €300 mark.

"The proceeds of each bike are initially kept in safekeeping," explained the spokeswoman. If the former owners come forward within three years of the auction, they are entitled to the proceeds paid, which will then be paid out to them.

Otherwise, "the money collected will be used to finance lost property management," said the spokeswoman. The high volume of lost property and the management of lost property, such as processing, storage, return to the owner and recycling, are associated with high costs.

Every year, around 250,000 items are lost by travellers in Deutsche Bahn stations and trains throughout Germany. That is almost 700 forgotten items per day. These include everyday items such as mobile phones as well as curiosities such as dentures, wedding dresses and judges' robes.

According to Deutsche Bahn, an average of 60% of the items can be returned to their owners, "in high-value product groups such as laptops even up to 90%."

Anyone who has forgotten their bike on the train can prove that it is their own by stating certain features and characteristics of the bike, such as brand and colour, as well as where it was found.