A bike-sharing startup just quit France after the ‘mass destruction’ of its fleet

Bike-sharing schemes are everywhere these days, though some are evidently more welcome than others.

Take Gobee. The Hong Kong-based outfit has just quit an entire country — France — because of ne’er-do-wells regularly wrecking its fleet of bicycles.

“Over the months of December and January, the mass destruction of our fleet has become the new entertainment of underaged individuals,” Gobee said in a statement seen by the Guardian.

The dockless service had 2,000 bikes in Paris and operated until recently in two other French cities. Riders used the Gobee app to find an available bike nearby, and scanned a QR code to unlock it. But in the four months since its launch, the company said 60 percent of its bikes had been destroyed, stolen, or modified for private use.

Its decision to exit Paris comes just over a month after it ended operations in the French cities of Lille and Reims, and also the Belgian capital, Brussels, where Gobee said up to 90 percent of its bikes had been stolen or damaged. The company no longer has any schemes operating in Europe.

In a blog post (translated), Gobee said that destroying the bikes had apparently become “the new hobby of individuals, mostly minors, encouraged by content widely distributed and shared on social networks.”

The company said it was “difficult to admit that a generation of individuals could undermine this promising project. Today, this critical situation does not allow us to continue our activity, and we are therefore forced to end our service at the national level.”

Gobee promised to refund to its users all deposits and unused credit within the next 10 days. Despite the setback, it said it wanted to thank those who had made the effort possible “and seeing in our project the opportunity to raise awareness on a subject as important as the evolution of urban mobility.” The startup continues to offer its bike-sharing service in Hong Kong.

Goodwill and decency

Such dockless bike schemes rely heavily on the goodwill and decency of just about everyone in the cities where they operate. After all, it only takes a few individuals to cause ongoing and costly damage to the bicycles. For Gobee, it simply wasn’t worth the cost and hassle of trying to make it work — in France, at least.

But this isn’t the first story of a bike scheme facing such challenges. In the U.S., for example, Baltimore Bike Share had to temporarily halt its service because of ongoing vandalism and theft, with some of the bicycles torn from their docks and later abandoned in an unusable condition. Meanwhile, a scheme in Philadelphia has lost 50 bikes to theft in two years, while Capital Bikeshare, which operates in and around Washington, D.C., has lost 60 since it started operating in 2010, the Washington Post reports.

San Francisco’s bike-sharing efforts have also been dealing with vandalism issues, with reports last year of a backlash against the schemes by irate locals who claim the big tech companies are ruining their neighborhoods by causing a housing crisis and increasing income inequality.

The business is still relatively new, however, and backers are continuing to experiment with different approaches to discover what works best in terms of security, with built-in GPS and more resilient bike designs two such solutions.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Outdoors

These zip-on bike tires change up your tread to match the terrain

Retyre gives cyclists the ability to change the tread on their bike tires simply by zipping on an overlay designed to provide better grip on trails or in the snow, without replacing the existing tires.
Emerging Tech

Like a Bat-Signal for cyclists, this laser light makes bikes visible to drivers

The Laserlight Core is a smart projection system for bicycles that's designed to promote safer cycling. It works by projecting an image of a cyclist 20 feet in front of you as you ride.
Outdoors

The best snowshoes you can buy right now (updated for 2018)

Snowshoeing is a great way to stay fit and active during the winter months, but finding the right pair can be a challenge. Here are our picks of the five best snowshoes available today to keep you moving on the trail this winter.
Outdoors

Hammock camping: Everything you need to know to get started

If you're looking to give hammock camping a try we have helpful tips and hints on how to get started, what to expect in the field, and the gear you'll need to completely replace your tent and still get a good night sleep.
Product Review

Garmin's Fenix 5X Plus is built for fitness freaks who fawn over every feature

With onboard music, full-color topographic maps, and new sport metrics, the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus sets a high bar for GPS smartwatches. Find out how it can help boost your performance in our Fenix 5X Plus review.
Cars

Sell your house and explore the planet with these awesome camper vans

Camper vans aren't just for pensioners. Check out the wildest creations that will go anywhere on the planet while keeping you comfortable no matter how far off the grid you end up.
Photography

From filters to mounts, these 16 GoPro accessories help you shoot all the action

A GoPro is only as good as the tools you use with it. Here, we've rounded up the best GoPro accessories currently available, from rotating time-lapse mounts to a wearable camera harness for your best friend.
Product Review

Withings Steel HR Sport is a fitness tracker you’ll love wearing

Withings jumps back in the wearables game with the new Steel HR Sport, a hybrid smartwatch that is as much a fitness tracker as it is a timepiece. It's so good that it hasn't left our wrist since we pulled it out of the package.
Outdoors

Here are all the best rain jackets on the market right now

Spring is here which means it's officially raincoat season. From high-tech, lightweight shells to modern-looking, waterproof trench coats, check out our list of the best rain jackets built to keep you dry.
Outdoors

Garmin’s new Instinct GPS watch is built for the sportsman in all of us

The new Garmin Instinct is a GPS multisport watch for people who love to be outdoors. The $300 Instinct takes the best features of the company's popular Fenix watches and packages them into rugged, military-grade package.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Outdoors

The Wau stands out in the crowded ebike market with its 60-mile range

The Wau ebike is a high-tech commuter that offers onboard GPS tracking, geofenced alarm systems, built-in front and rear lights, and pedal-assist speeds of up to 20 mph, with a range of as much as 60 miles between charges.