Technology giant Google loses between 100 and 250 of its colorful employee bicycles a week from its campus, the media reported. Google maintains roughly 1,100 free, two-wheelers with yellow frames, red baskets and green and blue wheels, known as Gbikes, for its employees to get around its sprawling campus.
However, according to company estimates, its bikes consistently go missing from its campus-between 100 and 250 a week, typically costing $100 to $300. The bikes have shown up at local schools, in neighbors’ lawns, at the bottom of the town creek and on the roof of a sports pub.
“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,” the Wall Street Journal reported on January 5.
A decade ago, Google started Silicon Valley’s first corporate bike programme, which was adopted by at least 16 others across the US, including at Apple, Facebook and Walmart, the report said. The company recently equipped about a third of its 1,100 bikes with GPS trackers, which revealed that the two-wheelers take an average 12 trips and travel six miles a day.
It now also has a team of 30 Google contractors and five vans who are tasked with retrieving Gbikes. They carry waders and grappling hooks for pulling bikes out of a creek. Still, Google isn’t entirely sure how many bikes it loses outright. From July to November, Google recovered between 70 and 190 bikes a week, or roughly two-thirds of the bikes reported off campus. The other third wasn’t there when contractors arrived to retrieve them, the report said.
Google is also testing versions that employees could unlock with their smartphones. According to Google managers, reducing thefts is a struggle because they often cannot tell whether riders are among the company’s employees or not.