According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Google has been having some problems with bicycle disappearances occurring at its Mountain View campus. The bicycles in question are not, however, those belonging to employees. Instead, the thefts center around the approximately 1,100 Google-themed bikes that the company keeps on hand for its employees use on and around the campus itself. Of course, this is not the first time the company's free-to-ride Gbikes have disappeared. Reports also cropped up back in July, when dozens of cycles were fished out of a local creek. However, while the relatively low cost of the items effectively renders the problem irrelevant to the company, the issue appears to have worsened. Although the bikes are not technically supposed to leave the company's property, Google says that somewhere around 100 to 250 of its Gbikes go missing on a weekly basis. Despite adding GPS trackers to some of its bicycles last year, Google has only been able to recover around 70 and 190 of its missing bikes per week respectively.
Interestingly enough, the local police department says its hands are tied due to the sheer number of Google employees, bicycles, and a general lack of enough officers to actively address the problem. Although Google has also said it hasn't kept track of exactly how many bicycles it has lost without recovery, it also doesn't appear as though the bikes are being taken with malicious intent. In a strange twist, in fact, many of the bikes appear to be borrowed by employees, residents within the general area of the campus, and visitors to the town and then left around the city. Local events in Mountain View, with Google pointing more specifically to country concerts, seem to be where disappearances peak. Residents of the city and even some Google employees have admitted to taking them off-campus and sometimes borrowing them overnight, while there have also been instances where the bikes have been kept.
To combat the problem, Google's latest efforts have included a test program aimed at adding smart locks to its Gbikes. Those locks would only be unlockable via an employee of the company using their smartphone. That's a tact which Google had, until recently, avoided in order to prevent inconvenience to its employees but which may become a necessity. The lost bikes that are GPS-enabled are predominantly found in the general vicinity of Mountain View but have also been recorded as far away as Alaska or Mexico.