More than one third of the popular Belfast Bikes are currently out of action due to either theft or vandalism.
With almost 5,000 annual members and over 5,000 casual subscribers clocking up in excess of 405k journeys since the launch in April 2015, the scheme is clearly a success. But a recent spate of theft and vandalism is jeapordising the future of the scheme and having a severe impact on the number of bikes in circulation for users.
As of today (Wednesday), 210 of the 576 bikes in the fleet have either been stolen or have had to be taken out of service due to vandalism, which is costing the scheme almost £1,800 per month. Over the Easter weekend, 19 bikes were stolen, six of which were recovered, and a further eight were vandalised.
Although some of the Belfast Bikes have been stolen for personal use, much of the damage inflicted on the public bikes is simply mindless vandalism, with, in one case, a bike being sawn in half!
Now, Belfast City Council and the Police are appealing to bike users, and the public in general, to report theft and vandalism to the scheme operators, or bring it to the attention of the police.
Sergeant Pete Cunningham said:
“We would appeal to anyone who witnesses any instances of theft or vandalism to the bikes to report this to police immediately so that we can address the issue and deal with those who are responsible. Please contact the PSNI by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency. Or, if you would prefer to provide information without giving your details you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston, added: “Along with our partners, the Department for Infrastructure, we made a conscious decision to invest in a scheme for the benefit of the people of Belfast.
“Belfast Bikes has enjoyed a hugely successful start-up period, and the popularity of the scheme clearly shows that we were right to back the initiative.
“It also goes hand in hand with ongoing and planned future investments in the city’s cycling infrastructure, helping us to reduce vehicular traffic, boost the health of our people and add to the friendly relaxed European atmosphere in the city.
“But we have to address the problem of antisocial behaviour and put measures in place to safeguard the scheme.”
Many bikes are stolen because they are not properly locked when returned to a docking station. If you’re a scheme user, a quick pull of the bike to make sure it’s properly locked, will also help to keep the bikes as safe as possible. The PSNI revealed in January that there is an increasing issue of bike theft in general, claiming that bicycle theft is “almost like the new car theft”.