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How Google accidentally provided free bikeshare for its Mountain View neighbors

Residents who are using the bikes claim it’s a reward for putting up with tech giant

Gbikes at the Googleplex in Mountain View.
Photo by Travis Wise

If there’s one thing Mountain View residents can agree upon, it’s an appreciation for Google bikes, which, according to Wall Street Journal, are being swiped in large number by sticky-fingered locals.

The tech outfit, headquartered in Mountain View, provides an estimated 1,100 free bicycles for employees to use in order to traverse its massive campus. However, the Google-colored two wheelers prove irresistible for some town folk, who reportedly swipe between 100 to 250 Gbikes (as they’re christened) a week.

But the disappearance isn’t the work of miscreants or chop shops (a common San Francisco sight). Reports WSJ, “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.”

So much so that townies have started using the bikes at will. Some of them even hoard the Gbikes.

Many neighbors ride them, [said Joseph Zidarevich, a 58-year-old marketer from Mountain View], “from whole families with their grandmothers—literally the grandpa and grandma and all their grandkids were riding Google bikes down the road—to the Sureño gang kids.” And some stash them, he said. After he spotted an elderly neighbor with one, Mr. Zidarevich said he asked him what he planned to do with it. “He goes, ‘Oh, I’ve got a whole garage full of them.’ ”

As for why residents of Mountain View believe they can steal company bikes without repercussion, some folks view them as a “reward” for having to put up with Google. (Because astronomical property value isn’t prize enough?)

[Sharon Veach, a 68-year-old resident who rides the bikes several times a week] said the Gbikes are “a reward for having to deal with the buses” carrying Google employees that barrel down her street each morning. “I ride a bicycle…to balance it out,” she said.

After finishing her decaf soy latte, Ms. Veach walked outside and came across a Gbike missing a seat. Because the bike was damaged, she said she would leave it. A moment later, she changed her mind: “Well, maybe I’ll ride it for a few minutes.” Then she hopped on and rode out of view.

Important to note that, according to WSJ, bike disappearances skyrocket after country concerts at nearby Shoreline Amphitheatre.

The tech company more or less tuns a blind eye to residents’ relationship to their property. However, they do employ dozens of contractors to retrieve Gbikes across the region, using vans to haul them back to campus and grappling hooks to fish them out of Stevens Creek. This comes in response to residents who claim the company wasn’t doing enough to retrieve the dumped bikes.