In Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik, a local man known as the “bike whisperer” works to recover stolen bikes, but he never gets angry or calls the police on the thieves.
In fact, the police call him when someone comes to report a missing bike. In a country with only a single high-security penitentiary, Bjartmar Leósson is a shining example of criminal rehab over criminal justice.
For the self-confessed “bike nerd” it all started when his bike was stolen years ago and came to believe it and other thefts like it were centered around a Reykjavik homeless shelter. He would see police cars driving past what were obviously stolen bikes out front and doing nothing.
“I was very angry, they were angry. But then I started to think: OK, it doesn’t matter, I can scream until I’m blue in the face, nothing’s going to change,” Mr. Leósson told The Guardian. “So I decided to try to level with them and just talk to them.”
From that point, the one-time thieves at the shelter became accomplices in a city-wide bike theft bust, with the unhoused helping to track down stolen bikes and recovering them for people reporting their bike stolen on Leósson’s Facebook group, Bicycle stuff etc lost, found or stolen, which has over 14,000 members.
Reykjavik is no Amsterdam, and only single-digit percentages of trips are made on bikes by the city’s 140,000 residents. But a drop in bike theft from 569 to 404 over 2 years, and a government program to create off-thoroughfare cycling routes is seeing that number rise.
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