Bike Theft and Vandalism Not a Problem for U.S. Bike-Sharing Programs

Bicing, Barcelona's bike-sharing program, like U.S. bike sharing programs, hasn't experienced much theft or vandalism.

Bike theft and vandalism has been a bit of an issue for the world’s biggest bike-sharing program, Vélib in Paris, which has been, nonetheless, extremely successful and dwarfs U.S. bike-sharing programs (so far). But recent research on the matter has found basically nothing to worry about concerning bike-sharing theft and vandalism in the U.S. and other places.

“In America’s new bike-sharing systems, there have been essentially no such problems,” Noah Kazis of Streetsblog New York City writes.

This seems to be because the locking mechanisms in newer systems are more secure and effective than in the Vélib system.

Here’s more from Kazis:

For example, Barcelona’s Bicing system, run by ClearChannel, has had about one-fifth the rate of stolen public bikes as Vélib, despite higher theft rates citywide, according to the New York Department of City Planning.

Stateside, the problems with crime have been smaller still.

“Theft and vandalism hasn’t been a big problem with either of our two systems,” said Jim Sebastian, who runs Washington D.C.’s bike and pedestrian programs. Under D.C.’s old SmartBike system, which opened in 2008, only one bike was ever stolen, and that was when a rider left it unsecured. Under the new and larger Capital Bikeshare system, which launched in September with about 1,100 bikes, they’ve lost fewer than five bikes, Sebastian said.

“We did have some vandalism at the beginning,” added Sebastian. “People test the limits at first, basically.” That’s died down now that the program is up and running, he said. “There’s nothing that hampers the operation of the system.”

Sebastian said there’s no trick to keeping the bikes safe. “Just making it difficult to get the bikes out of the rack,” is the key, he said.

In Minneapolis, again, theft and vandalism simply haven’t materialized as problems. The operators expected to lose around ten percent of their bikes to crime in the first year, but so far, that figure has only turned out to be 0.3 percent.

Denver’s new bike-sharing program has seen the same low level of problems. Since launching in April, it has had one bike stolen and one vandalized (aside from a neighborhood-wide incidence of tire slashing — cars and bikes).

Looks like biggest bike-sharing concerns are nothing to worry about in the U.S. We’ll see if that changes when New York launches its massive program (which is supposed to be even bigger than Paris’).

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Photo Credit: Maufdi via flickr (CC license)

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