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Thread: Stolen CaBi bikes

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
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    Default Stolen CaBi bikes

    What do people think of the Stolen CaBi Bike issue?

    You can easily find cases, generally in DC, of likely cases of stolen bikes, people hanging around with apparently stolen CaBi bikes. It's easy to spot as follows: Anyone using the system honestly is unlikely to hang around stationary with one of these bikes. Maybe a little hanging around here and there, but generally no one is going to sit stationary with one for hours because the fees will start to really bite. (The way CaBi works, of course, is you move quick to get it docked to dodge unnecessary charges, and a heavy user mindful of the clock who seldom or never "goes over" can get a very low cost-per-mile, something near free travel at decent speed.) The real giveaway if when you see homeless kind of camped out with them, or people who kind of semi-abandon them and them come back for them. I've seen multiple cases of this. There was ne guy using what I assume was a stolen CaBi and would padlock it to street signs when not in use! Another time an urban youth had painted one all white, I presume the paint meant to conceal its origin as a CaBi bike.

    Of course stealing CaBi bikes is wrong morally. But it seems to me it also hurts system health in two specific ways:

    (1) Bikes lost to theft have to be replaced, which costs money and other resources to keep a stable-size bike fleet. That means less resources for everything else, station expansion, whatever. Things cost money, and companies don't just write things off. In other words, the losers of stolen bikes are really all of us.

    (2) It's not a good look if CaBi becomes associated with "oh, those are the bikes that homeless hang around with." Image is important. I think CaBi has enjoyed a relatively good image in its ten-year career so far, but stolen bikes around homeless camps and rolled around at leisure by homeless and others are clearly not a good look. Lowers prestige means lower inclination to use.


    One purpose of this thread is to ask:

    Is there anything "we" can do to limit this problem?

    It's a classic social dilemma (cf. Prisoner's Dilemma), for one stolen bike matters not to me, and even a thousand stolen bikes matter not to me, but the thousand stolen bikes do matter collectively to all actual and would-be users (and would-be bicycling promoters) as they hurt the system.

    I can only wonder if there is soome kind of anti-theft team within CaBi (or LYFT; unclear to me who runs what).

    I get the idea that neither the police nor CaBi itself's on-the-ground operations arm, now LYFT?, are particularly interested in investigating stolen CaBi bikes. It's easy to find cases of people with what appear to be stolen CaBi bikes. The police have decided, it seems, that it's just not worth meddling with this, and let them do as they wish with these bikes, for it's just property crime.

    In one of the recent LYFT-era updates to the app, there is a button through which, if you're lucky enough to find it, you can "Report an Abandoned Bike," which I suppose in practice is often a euphemism for a stolen bike. I see little evidence any of these reporting features do much. LYFT might get back to you five days later with a generic message, but the bike is not recovered. (I guess they don't want confrontations with the people who allegedly stole the bikes / are using the allegedly stole bikes.)


    I remember one case of a man using what I assume is a stolen CaBi and just leaving it parked outside a McDonalds. He'd get back around to the bike whenever, didn't even bother to guard his own (stolen?) property. The bike could be there hours in plain sight. I happen to have seen the 'owner' of this perennially-in-front-of-McDonalds bike. He appeared homeless. Someone saw it undocked and wheeled it over to a dock some distance away and put it in. The next day, or maybe it was two days later, a CaBi bike was there again. Same place, same stationary position, same nonchalance about even bothering to conceal or lock it, nothing. Had the man stolen one and then another? How? So easily?

    The McDonalds scene I am recalling was, I think, 2018, but similar scenes can be found daily if you spend enough time in certain areas especiallyh in fair-weather.

    Is there some alternative explanation to some of the apparently stolen bikes? Was this man just granted a royal exemption to use a CaBi 24/7 as he pleased?

    While on the topic, one thing I wonder is:

    How do people steal the bikes?

    It seems common enough that there must be some method they are using. Fake credit card numbers? Something more physical, a tool to pry the bike from its dock?

    Someone in another thread has said LYFT has made moves to significantly tighten security and reduce thefts starting a year ago, so I wonder if the stolen bikes you see in 2021 might have been stolen even before that. There's a lot I don't know, but there is one thing I do know: I see apparently stolen CaBi's too often for comfort.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
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    Iíve seen someone giving tugs on all the bikes in a dock to see if any were not fully docked which is my guess for the primary theft method. Iíve improperly docked a few times in addition multiple times where it was hard to dock.

    It seems like Iíve seen more abandoned bikes since dockless bikes and scooters arrived. One thing that Iíve seen a whole lot more of lately on Twitter is people painting them. Some of the forum folks involved with bikeshare might be able to drop some data on what theft/damage rates are like. Some of the paint jobs look nice.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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  5. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Lot's of things to address here, but quickly:

    1) Yes, bike theft from CaBi is a thing that escalated with the introduction of dockless bikes to our market in Oct. 2017. Other factors include increase in "Shake & Take" method success rate with aging stations; and increased Credit Card fraud (which resulted in cell phone authentication last year). Many bikes come back to us after the original use has ended and they are abandoned and reported.

    2) CaBi had a couple of staff dedicated to bike recovery in 2018-19, but I don't know if that task force is still operational, or if those staff were folded back into the rebalancing operations.

    3) Don't have exact numbers, but many bikes were also lost during last summers emergency shut downs during the protests.

    4) Yes, please report abandoned bikes. The App is the best tool, but Twitter is another option.

    5) There is an equity program that gives users more initial ride time (Capital Bikeshare for All). Please be careful making assumptions about who "looks like" they should have a bike as some of our Community Partners Programs (like Back on My Feet) work directly with the homeless populations.

    6) Any REGULAR CaBi bike locked up outside the stations is in violation of the use agreement and should be reported. E-bikes are allowed to be locked away from the stations as long as they are "locked-to" something. You may report "free-locked" e-bikes (i.e. those that simply have the rear cable inserted into the lock, but not locked to anything).


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