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Are Capital Bikeshare bikes ever stolen?


A Capital Bikeshare station on M Street SE near Nationals Park. (Robert Thomson / The Washington Post)

(This post has been updated.)

With the warm weather in full swing, commuting by bike is picking up— and bike thefts are on the rise too.

And, if you use Capital Bikeshare, don’t think you are immune to being a victim.

David Garber, an ANC commissioner for Navy Yard, recently left his Capital Bikeshare bike unattended while visiting someone in Bloomingdale. When he returned a minute later his two-wheel ride was gone.

The bike was returned to a Capital Bikeshare docking station in Petworth three days later, Garber said in a tweet Monday.

“It *was* damaged, so I’ll be paying for that as well as capped usage fees. But overall, less exp. than the lost bike fee of $1,000. (Whew!)” he said in another tweet.

Thefts of Capital Bikeshare bikes are not common, especially when taking into consideration a recent increase in bike thefts around the region.  The bad news is that when it happens, it can be costly.

Under the Capital Bikeshare member agreement, when a bike is kept beyond the allotted time “then the Capital Bikeshare bicycle is deemed lost or stolen, Member’s credit card will be charged a fee of $1,000, and a police report may be filed with local authorities.”

In the event that the  Capital Bikeshare bicycle is stolen, the user is held responsible and must report the disappearance to Capital Bikeshare’s within 24 hours and file a report with the local police.

Since Capital Bikeshare launched in the District in September 2010, there have been 100 reported thefts systemwide, said Kimberly Lucas, the Capital Bikeshare program manager with the District Department of Transportation.  Of those, all but 16 bikes have been recovered, she said.

The growing bikeshare program has nearly 2,700  bikes at more than 300 stations in the District and Alexandria and Arlington and Montgomery counties, and is close to reaching 7 million rides.

“The stations are incredibly secure and we don’t really get reports of people getting attacked or anything like that for their bike,” Lucas said.

Lucas said most theft cases in the past have been situations where someone’s credit card was stolen, fraudulently used to purchase a membership and then that membership used to take a bike.  In most cases the bikes have been recovered: either returned to a docking station days later or found abandoned by Capital Bikeshare staff, police or citizens.



In cases where the bike user is not at fault for the loss, Capital Bikeshare has worked to split costs for damage, said Lucas. But members must know that if they lose a bike they can be charged for the cost of recovery or replacement of the bike.

“If it is their negligence, then we charge them,” she said. “If someone says I left it outside the store and it disappeared and then it is not recovered, then we are more likely to charge them that $1,000 because they shouldn’t have left it unattended.”

Lucas offered some tips for users:

  • NEVER leave a bike unattended.  Not even for “just a second”.
  • When you dock your bike, be sure you get a green light and a “beep”.
  • After you hear the beep, lift up on the seat of the bike and pull back.  This will ensure the bike is locked in place.
  • If you hear a grinding noise/no noise/get a red or yellow light, call customer service right away.

Garber, who uses Capital Bikeshare almost every day, said Wednesday he was glad the bike was returned.

“I am not sure if it was the person who took it who returned it to a dock eventually or if a good Samaritan found it and returned it,” he said. “I don’t have any way of finding out who it was that put it back, but I am glad they did.”

The incident won’t keep him from using the service, though he said he’s now a lot more careful. On a trip to Union Market on Tuesday he left his Bikeshare bike at the closest docking station about six blocks away instead of onsite.

“I have learned my lesson. I didn’t just want to leave it out and have it get stolen again.”

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.



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