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Bike Share Takes a Beating

A Ford GoBike dismantled and hung. Photo posted by Erika Dumaine‎ on the San Francisco Bike Ride Crew Facebook page

The Bay Area's bike share system, which expanded in San Francisco and launched less than a month ago in the East Bay, seems to be off to a rocky start, with many reports on social and traditional media of slashed tires, stolen bikes, and even one bike dumped into Lake Merritt.

It's important to note that, as much as it's interesting to see a picture of a stripped-down Ford GoBike hung from a tree, it doesn't say much about whether the system is working or not--the roll out numbers are still not crunched. No matter what, a certain number of bikes were bound to get stolen and/or damaged.

"The data I have seen is ... showing usage at each pod," wrote Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director of Bike East Bay, in an email to Streetsblog. "I intend to take a closer look at this data, but it is still early." The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition expressed similar sentiment, that it was just too early to say anything about whether the system is taking off or not.

People familiar with bike-share systems in other cities say it's not that unusual for vandals to go after the bikes initially--after all, it's a new target and it can even get your handiwork on TV. "... vandalism and theft of private vehicles and bikes is also a common occurrence around here, sadly, so it should also be no surprise when this extends to the bike share bikes as well," wrote Robert Prinz, Education Director for Bike East Bay.

The bike vandalism may also be part of a general blow-back effect other cities have seen after launching bike-share systems. Remember the Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz's comment about New York neighborhoods getting "begrimed" by bike shares? If you're not familiar with that, and some of the other 'bikelash' that took place when New York launched its system, check out this hilarious video of unintentional self-parody embedded in a post by Streetsblog NYC.

Meanwhile, bike-share operators are doing their best to clean up the messes and get the bikes back into circulation. "Our team operates 24-hours a day and we are rapidly responding to any reports of vandalism, and making any necessary repairs," said Dani Simons, a spokesperson for Motivate.

"It's all speculation at this point, but I see everyday in Oakland, bus shelters smashed, BART cars trashed, litter all over the freeways and car windows broken into. I guess someone hates transportation in general," wrote Campbell.

Still, the pictures of the abused bikes are oddly amusing. One has to wonder if Bluegogo, the renegade bike share company that was essentially chased out of San Francisco by regulations, is laughing at it all. In addition to the bike hung from a tree and the submarine bike in Lake Merritt, Hoodline has a shot and video of a row of Ford GoBikes with slashed tires. And, in case you think this is particular to the Bay Area's official bike share system, Streetsblog found this Jump electric bike with both tires popped, on Valencia.

This Jump electric bike also suffered some wrath. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

The reasons for the bike-share vandalism are unclear. Is it an anti-gentrification protest statement? Or generalized bike-lash as they saw in New York City? Or all-too-common vandalism of objects in the public realm? Or multiple reasons?

Is all this abuse beating up bike-share, making it difficult to use? Do you ride Ford GoBikes? Do you find the recent expansions useful? Tell us what you think.

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