Google is believed to have a massive database of Internet users that use its services. However, the search engine giant seems to be clueless when it comes to the thieves who are stealing their Google bikes, popularly known as ‘Gbikes.’
Google bikes go missing
In the last decade or so, Google has developed a fleet of hundreds of bicycles (about 1,100), which it offers to its employees for free. These bikes allow employees to travel around the Mountain View headquarters quickly and easily. However, over the past few weeks, the company has been facing a serious problem – about 100 to 250 of its multi-colored bikes are being stolen every week, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Stolen may not be the appropriate word to describe the disappearance of the Gbikes, rather it should be “borrowed.” Malicious intent is not the real issue here. The source of the problem is not real thieves, but rather the local Mountain View residents, who see Google bikes as a free community transport vehicle. This very much explains why these Gbikes often end up at odd locations like taverns, schools and even at the Burning Man event in Nevada.
The local police department says it may not be able to help because of the volume of Google employees, bicycles, and lack of enough officers.
“We don’t have the manpower to stop every person and say, ‘Are you a Google employee?’ Nor should we,” a police spokeswoman told.
Google also acknowledges that it has no exact count of the bikes it has lost. Further, Google executives say they are unable to lower the theft as it becomes impossible for them to identify if the rider is among Google’s 20,000 employees in Mountain View. This is not the first time that Google bikes have disappeared. In July, there were reports of dozens of Gbikes getting stolen.
Revenge on Google
The locals, however, do not feel there is anything wrong in using the Gbikes. Rather, they see it as revenge on Google for using their town’s resources.
“The disappearances often aren’t the work of ordinary thieves, however. Many residents of Mountain View, a city of 80,000 that has effectively become Google’s company town, see the employee perk as a community service,” reported The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal claims that one local has a garage full of “borrowed” bikes, while a woman uses these bikes to protest against the buses which are used to transport Google employees. Joseph Zidarevich, a local marketer, told The Wall Street Journal that everyone steals the bikes, “from whole families with their grandmothers—literally the grandpa and grandma and all their grandkids were riding Google bikes down the road—to the Sureño gang kids.”
Meanwhile, in an attempt to lower the theft rate and recover the lost bikes, Google has hired 30 contractors with five vans. The job of this team is to recover the lost bikes. In addition, the tech firm is also testing putting tracking sensors on some of the bikes, and is even considering locks that can be opened only by the Google employee’s phone.