Just over half of the U-bicycles that once filled Greater Victoria streets are gone, mostly thanks to thieves and vandalism.
On Sept. 30, 2017, bike-sharing company U-bicycle distributed 200 bikes across the city. Equipped with GPS and self-activating locks, the bikes had no fixed bicycle racks and could be docked anywhere.
Eventually, the program expanded to Saanich, Esquimalt, Langford and Cowichan Bay. In November 2018, U-bicycle switched to a “virtual parking system” in Greater Victoria. The 135 “virtual parking zones” are used for the pick up and drop off of bicycles.
The virtual “parking spots” are supposed organize the bikes and “control the chaos,” said U-Bicycle Victoria city manager Tricia Cacchione, as well as “ensure bikes aren’t being parked in inconvenient places … like blocking someone in a wheelchair.”
REMINDER: Starting tomorrow, November 1st, U-bicycle in Victoria will officially be implementing the new virtual parking zone system in order to make the U-bicycle experience more reliable and convenient for our riders. ✅
— U-bicycle Canada (@Ubicycle_Canada) October 31, 2018
But virtual docks didn’t solve all of U-bicycle’s problems. Since they were first introduced, many of the bikes have been stolen, damaged or vandalized. In fact, only 110 U-bicycles remain on the streets of downtown Victoria.
It appears that one cyclist even “docked” a U-bicycle under the Johnson Street bridge.
|Callisto Rivers snapped a picture of a bike submerged beneath the Johnson Street bridge.|
“As a start-up company we are still dealing with the growing pains and we have come to a realization that vandalism and damage is, unfortunately, kind of just part of the process of having an accessible option for individuals,” Cacchione said, adding she hopes anyone who witnesses a bike being toyed with or damaged will contact U-Bicycle.
“We’re always essentially watching the bikes. We know which ones are missing and which ones have been taken inappropriately,” she added. “All we can do is create a dialogue and increase our community engagement.”
|Robert Emmett found this U-Bicycle wheel off Douglas Street and Burnside Road.|
Cacchione said many of the bikes have been donated or recycled after having their locks tampered.
When the bike is left behind, U-Bicycle has the option to donate the bikes to an organization that refurbishes them and sends them to Uganda.
U-bicycle has bikes in other B.C. locations including Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Richmond.
This story was updated to reflect more current numbers provided by Victoria U-Bicycle.