It’s no secret that Google’s colourful employee bicycles often go missing – but until now the scope of the problem was largely unknown outside the Mountain View tech giant.
Last summer, it emerged that some of the company’s bikes – intended to help Googlers move quickly and in environmentally friendly fashion around the company’s sprawling campus and surrounding areas – were sleeping with the fishes in Stevens Creek.
And now, a new report has revealed that 100 to 250 Google bikes go missing every week, on average.
“The disappearances often aren’t the work of ordinary thieves, however. Many residents of Mountain View, a city of 80,000 that has effectively become Google’s company town, see the employee perk as a community service,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
And for the company, here’s one Google bike use case that’s got to burn a little: 68-year-old Sharon Veach told the newspaper that she sometimes uses one of the bicycles as part of her commute: to the offices of Google’s arch foe, Oracle.
Google doesn’t really want non-Googlers using the bikes, “but it’s OK if you do,” Veach explained.
Mountain View Mayor Ken Rosenberg even admitted to helping himself to a Google bike to go to a movie after a meeting at the company’s campus, according to the WSJ.
Google has recently equipped about a third of its 1,100 bikes with GPS trackers; these show the two-wheelers average about a dozen trips a day, covering six miles.
The firm has 30 contractors in five vans, tasked with recovering lost or stolen bikes – and they carry waders and grappling hooks for pulling bikes out of a creek, the WSJ reported Jan 5. Still, Google’s not certain how many bikes disappear for good. From July to November, the company retrieved 70 to 190 bikes a week, roughly two-thirds of those reported missing from its campus, according to the newspaper.
Ensuring that only company workers are riding the “Gbikes” is not particularly straightforward: some Googlers don’t exactly fit the stereotype of the Silicon Valley techie. Company transportation executive Jeral Poskey told the paper he once took action when he saw what appeared to be a homeless woman on a commandeered Google bike.
“If I could describe her, you would agree with me,” Poskey said. “She looked all panicked, and then she showed me her Google badge.” — San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service
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