Thieves plunder bicycle program

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Oslo’s popular bysykkel program, which allows the use of bicycles for a nominal fee, is under threat from thieves and vandals. Never before have so many bicycles been stolen as in the past few months.

There were only a few of the popular loaner bikes available at this stand near Aker Brygge last weekend. PHOTO: Views and News

City officials and the marketing company that runs the nearly-free bicycle program, Clear Channel, reported this week that nearly 300 of the bikes have disappeared since they were brought out of winter storage in April.

It’s not unusual for would-be cyclists to find bicycle stands empty, and no new supplies of the simple bikes are planned before 2015.

Several of the bike stands where the bicycles are meant to be parked have also been vandalized, meaning Clear Channel has been forced to close them. “We have ordered the parts we need to make repairs, but I’m afraid the stands will remain closed for a few more weeks,” Clear Channel chief Pål Grøttem told newspaper Aften.

He’s frustrated by the theft and vandalism that’s jeopardizing a program largely based on the honor system. It allows users to pick up a bike at one stand, use it for several hours and return it to another stand, all for the seasonal rate of NOK 80 (about USD 12). 

The city backs the program as a means of providing low-cost, environmentally friendly transportation. Clear Channel earns money on it through advertising on the bikes themselves and elsewhere around the city.

The program started in 2003 with 300 bicycles and had 1,200 at the start of this season. With 22,000 registered users, that means each one has to share a bike with as many as 18 others. Grøttem wants to acquire more stands and more bicycles but won’t make any promises since Clear Channel’s contract expires in five years and theft has become a problem.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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