It’s no secret to anyone that’s watching Seattle Twitter that for some, there’s a lot of rage around bike-share bikes. Where some see an alternative transportation option, others see an eyesore or a public nuisance.
Whether that’s the motivation or not, someone is targeting dockless, shared bikes—the ones run by private bike-share companies like Ofo, Limebike, and Spin, but governed by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)—by vandalizing the brakes, warned SDOT in a tweet on Wednesday.
“We’re getting reports that some [bike share] bikes have had brakes vandalized,” read the tweet. “We’re working [with] the companies to notify users, but in the meantime, please be sure to test your bike share brakes before you hop on.”
Vandalizing bike-share bikes is nothing new—a lot of attention has been given to people tossing the bikes into lakes or the sound—but this constitutes a much bigger public safety risk than most botched parking jobs, not including blocked right-of-ways.
According to a bicycle and pedestrian safety analysis presented to City Council in February, out of 3,120 bicycle crashes in Seattle between 2007 and 2014, 237 were serious or fatal—and crashes more likely and more severe downhill, when it’s more difficult for a bicycle to stop.
Under the rules governing bike-share operation in Seattle, companies have to remove bikes that are inoperable or unsafe within 24 hours, but in order for a bike to be deemed unsafe, someone has to notice and report a problem. And with more than 9,000 bikes on the road—and without further information—it’s hard to tell what the scope of the problem is.
We’re getting reports that some #seattlebikeshare bikes have had brakes vandalized. We’re working w/the companies to notify users, but in the meantime, please be sure to test your bike share brakes before you hop on. More info soon!— seattledot (@seattledot) March 21, 2018
-@limebike @ofo_bicycle @Spin_Seattle
“We’re aware and saddened by this act of vandalism and actively working with city officials to address the issue,” an Ofo spokesperson said over email. “Our local team is diligently working to identify and remove any affected bikes from our platform.”
Ofo is alerting riders over email and with a splash screen. The company hasn’t received any customer complaints so far, but noticed a cut brake line during a “regular inspection.”
Spin noted on Twitter that the problem is not specific to one bike-share operator, though—and sent an email to its users noting that Spin has “received reports of brake lines being cut on Spin bikes.”
“We were informed that there have been instances of people cutting brake lines on dockless bikes in the Seattle area,” said a Spin spokesperson in a statement. “For Spin, it has been a limited occurrence but we are taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our community.”
“Cutting the brake lines of a bike is not only an act of vandalism, but also a crime as it puts the lives and safety of others at risk,” said a Limebike spokesperson in a statement. “Our local team is aware of the situation and has been working around-the-clock to ensure that all bikes and brakes are double checked for safety.”
All three companies encouraged users to check bikes before riding. Limebike recommended a “safety check” of “checking the bike to ensure all wires are intact” and “squeezing the brakes to make sure there is resistance.”
SDOT referred us to the individual bike-share operators for more information, but noted the maintenance lines for the companies in case anyone encounters a broken bike: 844-289-9747 or email@example.com for Ofo, 1-888-LIME-345 or firstname.lastname@example.org for Limebike, and 1-888-262-5189 or email@example.com for Spin.
“If you witness a bike crime in action, please dial 911,” added Limebike.
We’ve also reached out to the Seattle Police Department for comment; we’ll update if we hear back.
This article has been updated to include statements from Spin and Limebike and to correct a typo.