Thefts put Outback’s free bike program on hold

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The bikes for Pacific Outback’s Afree program have been pulled out of circulation while association members address concerns about theft and misuse.

The Afree program started three years ago with six bikes and a plan to add three more down the road.  Over time, three of the bikes have been stolen, so the new bikes the program will receive will replace the ones lost instead of adding more.  Director of the Pacific Outback, Chad Toomey said, “Theft has been a problem in the past, but this year has shown an increase in misuse with the bikes.” Toomey has seen damage done to the bikes, as well as opportunities for easy theft due to locks being put on improperly or not at all.   It is also suspected that some members give the combinations to the Afree locks to other people who are not a part of the association.

Previously, students who were registered as members of the Afree Bike Association would receive a combination to association bike locks and they would have access to use the Afree bikes located at sanctioned racks whenever they wanted.   When the student was finished, they would relock the bike back onto one of the Afree sanctioned racks.

On Nov. 15, some of the members had a meeting to discuss possible solutions to the problems that have been occurring.  The association reached out to its users through email, providing information about better bike maintenance. Users of the program bikes also expressed issues with where locks are located and the number of locks available for the bikes.

“One interesting observation that came up during the meeting was how important the bikes are to users. People rely on bikes for exercise, to go to the store, for fun, or just to go out for a ride and become more familiar with the area,” said Toomey, “those most concerned showed up, and they became better users after coming to the meeting.”

A proposal to implement a checkout system was introduced during the meeting.  With the proposal, bikes, locks and helmets would be located and made available for checkout in the residence halls or the Milky Way. Some benefits would be that students would know where the bikes are available, it would provide a better way to keep track of the bikes and who has them, it would discourage theft or misuse, students wouldn’t be bound to locking the bikes on Afree racks and bikes would be cleaner and dryer with indoor storage.

The drawback to the proposal is that bikes would have to be returned to checkout by the end of front desk hours.

“We are looking for long-term positive change. We are proud of the Afree program and we want to make the most of something really important to folks,” said Toomey.  The members of the Afree Bike Association plan on having another meeting in the near future and they hope to have the bikes back in circulation by the first of the new year.


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