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What happens when a bikeshare ride is vandalized?

The bike sat next to a University District bus stop in Seattle — stripped of all its moving parts, right down to the frame and handlebars. The once shareable SPIN bikeshare ride wasn’t going anywhere now. Instead, passersby were using it for humorous photo ops.

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Bikeshare rides have been cruising around Seattle for nearly eight months. Vandalism to the bikes has been going on about the same amount of time. Companies have fetched bikes from trees and out of Lake Union. Spray-painted bikes can be seen along sidewalks. And companies recently issued warnings after someone cut the brake lines on some of the bikes.

But what about theft and stealing parts? It takes effort and skill to strip down a bike, especially one owned by a bikeshare company. Both wheels, the chain, and the locking mechanism were all gone in the case of the SPIN bike. The entire braking system alone takes patience to disassemble.

What happens to vandalized a bikeshare ride?

SPIN tracks its bikes, but not individual parts. However, it’s difficult to use SPIN parts on other bikes, according to a company spokesperson.

“Upon notification to the company, SPIN will retrieve a vandalized bike as quickly as possible and either repair it or salvage it for parts,” said SPIN’s Seattle General Manager Matt Sink.

LimeBike is another bikeshare player in Seattle. Less than 1 percent of its bikes have experienced theft or vandalism, according to Mary Caroline Pruitt with LimeBike.

“All LimeBikes are also equipped with anti-theft locks and audible alarms that sound if a bike is moved without being unlocked, which immediately alerts LimeBike officials who can then track the bike using its GPS functions,” Pruitt said. “Additionally, all of our parts are proprietary, meaning that if someone takes a wheel or another part off of a LimeBike, it won’t fit onto any other bike models.”

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So while the parts may be gone, they won’t be much good for other bikes. Sorry, thieves.

“Together, with the community, we hope to create a culture that trains people to view bikesharing as theirs, and with that is creating a culture where parking and use become a natural and responsible habit,” Pruitt said. “That is the bigger picture beyond one person vandalizing a bike from an ecosystem.”

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