Company newsCitiesHow to protect bike-sharing schemes from vandalism and bike-dumping
January 6, 2023

How to protect bike-sharing schemes from vandalism and bike-dumping

By Jessica Jones Langley
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Cities should provide a bike-sharing scheme for everyone that withstands the most active and heavy use. However, not all bike-sharing schemes are created equally.

Vandalism can result in financial losses or schemes being shut down. A particular form of vandalism which is problematic is bike-dumping. People often dump, or leave, bikes in areas where they should not, for example in waterways. People also hang bikes off unusual spaces, such as lamp posts. Bikes have certainly been found in some random places.

The social and financial impact can be huge to a city, not even considering the environmental impact. This article looks at how bike-sharing schemes can be made to be city-proof, withstanding heavy use.
 

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Bike-dumping: When bikes which are dumped or left in unusual places

Building a durable bike-sharing scheme for everyone

Not all bikes are created equal. The design of the bike is crucial to understanding how well it will stand up to continuous, rigorous, and sometimes malicious use. It must be durable.

There are a range of ways to make a bike durable with the ability to withstand heavy and careless use, including:

  • Designing the bike around a sturdy frame. For example Fifteen's bikes use industrial grade aluminium to make it impact and corrosion resistant. 
  • Simplifying the bike by reducing external parts which could be broken. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry used to say: “Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away". At Fifteen, we designed the bike to remove as many unnecessary features, including gears, as possible. We use a high-end torque sensor to adapt the power distributed by the motor based on how much force the rider puts on the pedals. That way, the acceleration to maximum speed is smooth and always accurate.
  • Protecting electronic features by internalising or removing them. Electronic components on Fifteen bikes are all hidden to the user, and what we couldn't hide we simply removed (such as the screen). If it's not accessible, people are less able to damage them. 
  • Strong tyres. We recommend a minimum of 5 mm puncture-proof rubber to prevent holes. This is particularly important to avoid having to pull a bike out of service for repair.
  • Well-dimensioned motor: all motors are not equal in terms of durability. For a bike-sharing scheme, having a very strong motor is not necessary and will impact the durability of the transmission. At Fifteen we heavily worked on proportioning the power of our motor to fit our user's needs and we chose to put it in the rear wheel to reduce even more the stress exerted on the transmission.
     
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Bike-sharing for everyone - not matter what city, region or area you are in

Piece of mind if vandalism does happens

As any mayor or city transport officer will attest to, preventing all vandalism is impossible. So bikes should be quickly recoverable and unattractive to steal.

Ways that we've designed bikes to discourage theft and easily facilitate recuperation include:

  • A disengaging motor. If a bike is stolen, the motor will disengage, preventing the bike pedals from turning, and only operators would be able to reactivate it. Effectively, this action makes the bike unusable and undesirable for the thieves. 
  • an alarm. To deter people from taking bikes without authorisation, an alarm will sound and can only be deactivated by the operator.
  • Findable via geolocation. 99% of the problem when bikes go astray is not knowing where the bike is. Being able to track the bike helps to recover it quickly. 
     
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Bikes at Fifteen are made to withstand real human use - malicious or not.

The team works closely on ensuring that Fifteen bikes are suitable for any city - even ones where vandalism is rife. Christopher Slade, Partnerships Manager, highlights that "bikes at Fifteen are made to withstand real human use - malicious or not." After deploying over 50,000 bikes to cities and partners worldwide we know one of the factors in deciding on a bike-sharing scheme is how city-proof bikes are. But there are various other factors that officials need to take into account. Feel free to reach out to the team if you'd like more information. 
 

What to consider when planning a bike-sharing scheme for your city?

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