The Minneapolis bike share system scheduled to debut in June hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls other programs around the world have faced, including thefts, vandalism and malfunctioning rental kiosks.
The Minneapolis bikes have theft-resistant nuts and bolts, which respond only to specialized wrenches, and all break [sic] cables will be encased in the metal frame of the bike. A special computer chip will be able to track bikes taken improperly from a kiosk, meaning in the rare instance of a theft, the bike can be found and returned, instead of totally replaced.
“We get to buy a tested system,” Dossett added. “It’s true that in the first three to four weeks [Montreal] had some serious problems.” He said that the main flaw was the locking system, which previously involved a plastic cassette that would fasten a bike to a kiosk. Vandals could break the plastic cassette, so BIXI engineers decided to replace the plastic with metal.
The story mentions a few design features that could deter theft, but overlooks one of the most important — the distinctive look of the bike used in the Bixi system. A would-be thief can pretty much forget reselling a bike that screams stolen goods, even without the tracking chip.
It may also help that the program is being positioned less like a commercial or government service and more like an organization. (The nonprofit Nice Ride Minnesota will run it.) When people perceive themselves to be part of a community instead of just consumers of a service, they are more likely to look out for each other and the good condition of the shared infrastructure. That tends to be true in dog parks, disc golf facilities or bike and ski trails.
Bikes and bike parts will always be comparatively easy to steal, so another step toward prevention (besides actually locking them) is making more people aware of the signs. For example, people securing their own bike focus on the bike; thieves are mainly scanning around themselves as they fiddle with releases or locks.