Google has a problem with its campus bike-sharing scheme

Bike-sharing schemes seem to be popping up all over the place these days, but Google’s may be the oddest of them all.

Why? Because it appears that the folks living in the company’s home city have taken it upon themselves to make full use of the two-wheelers that are meant only for Google employees.

Several hundred of the so-called Gbikes are believed to be going missing every single week from Google’s campus in Mountain View, California, the Wall Street Journal reports, and the tech giant is apparently having trouble working out what to do about it.

For a company famous for apparently knowing everything about you, it seems somewhat odd that it knows so little about the whereabouts of its multi-colored bikes, with Mountain View residents popping into the campus to nab them for a free rides to their destinations. Once these bikes are in “the wild,” they essentially become part of an unofficial bike-sharing scheme and so could end up anywhere, with people successively grabbing them for quick rides when they see them unattended on the sidewalk, outside a store, or wherever.

Residents making use of the bicycles even include Mountain View Mayor Ken Rosenberg, who confessed he once hopped on a Gbike for a ride to a nearby movie theater following a meeting at Google’s campus. And while some locals appear to believe the bikes are free for all residents to use, others take them for rides as a way of getting something back from the company that they say has taken over the city.

In a bid to hold onto its bikes, Google is planning to start testing smart locks that can only be unlocked by Googlers with the appropriate smartphone app. The company also has five teams of collectors scouring the streets of Mountain View for Gbikes, which have turned up everywhere from the roof of a local sports pub to a nearby creek (the team has waders so they can go in and haul them out). One even showed up in a TV ad for cosmetics maker Garnier.

The company’s bike-sharing scheme launched for its Mountain View employees 10 years ago, and the bikes have steadily been disappearing from the campus ever since.

To learn more about how its stolen bikes are being used, Google last year started attaching GPS trackers to some of them. To its astonishment, the trackers showed one of the Gbikes as far away as Mexico, while another somehow made it to Alaska. With Google Maps indicating the 3,142-mile journey would take 276 hours to complete, we’re assuming the single-gear bike wasn’t ridden all the way there.