U-Bicycle launched in September 2017 and now operates close to 500 bikes throughout Greater Victoria. (Black Press file photo)

U-Bicycle launched in September 2017 and now operates close to 500 bikes throughout Greater Victoria. (Black Press file photo)

Greater Victoria bike sharing company looks to lock out thieves, vandals

U-Bicycle has lost about 10 per cent of its fleet to theft and vandalism

Since U-Bicycle rode into Greater Victoria in September 2017, the bike-sharing company has seen an estimated 10 per cent of its fleet, now totalling 550 bikes, either damaged or stolen.

Stan Zhang, a company representative, said thieves made off with about half of that total, with the rest suffering damages.

While hesitant to discuss financial numbers, Zhang said these figures are in line with expectations.

RELATED: Victoria goes green with new bike-share service

Zhang said the company will continue to work with customers, as well as police departments in Saanich and Victoria to help limit vandalism and outright theft.

As of Tuesday, the company has so far recovered about 20 to 30 bikes in various states in working with local police, said Zhang.

Bikes may suffer damage or be stolen under various circumstances.

RELATED: Saanich looks to saddle up with bike-share program

Users can book bikes through an app on their mobile phone, and if they do not indicate that they have completed their trip upon arrival at their destination, the bikes can remain accessible to others, who, shall we say, did not book them. Worse, the company will not be able to trace them, said Zhang.

While newer versions of the company’s distinct green bicycles have a GPS-system built into their physical lock, nefarious users can disable it by breaking the lock, Zhang said.

Even if would-be thieves cannot remove the lock, they can still rob the bicycles of various parts, Zhang explained, adding that they have recovered bikes in various states of damage.

Zhang said the company will continue to work at reducing losses, an agenda that will involve users themselves, as the company’s app allows them to tell headquarters whether bikes have suffered damage.

RELATED: Victoria’s U-bicycles move from dockless to virtual parking

The company has also recently transitioned towards designated virtual parking locations. Users will still be able to lock and unlock their bikes from any location, but they will continue to incur charges until they have successfully locked their bikes at one of the company’s parking locations.

Once users have physically locked their bikes, they must end their ride on their app. Their ride has only finished when their screen shows “complete.”

Virtual parking is currently happening only in the City of Victoria as part of the company’s agreement with the city. The company says it will make finding a bike more consistent and reliable, while ensuring a better distribution of bicycles.

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