July 10, 2017

BART Pilots Bikeep Racks

In case there weren't enough reasons to envy San Franciscans, now there are "zero theft" bike racks at BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stations.

Making good on its promise of a year or so ago, BART is the first transit agency in the United States to test "smart" bike racks from Estonian-born startup Bikeep.

The racks, deployed at the Mission District and Pleasant Hill stations as part of a pilot project, are racks and locks in one, with automatic locking mechanisms users can operate after a short online registration process with mere swipes of their Clipper reloadable transit cards.

The industrial grade steel bars that secure a bike's frame and front wheel sport square cross sections to foil pipe cutter attacks. They enclose wires that, if cut, both trigger an earsplitting alarm and alert authorities.

"So far out of 1 million parking sessions we haven't had a single bike theft incident," said Bikeep CEO Kristjan Lind.

Though they sound too good to be true (use of the Bikeep racks is even free, at least for now), San Francisco's latest attempt to save its residents' two-wheelers from theft is not without drawbacks. The racks are pricey, for one thing, at $1000 each. And while the locking mechanism fits most bicycles, folks with unusual rides—a large e-bike, say, or a diminutive folder—might not be able to secure their front wheel.

Users with locking skewers or a portable lock (kind of kills the initial leave-your-lock-at-home appeal of the system...) can safeguard their rear wheels, but otherwise they're left vulnerable to what one resident recently termed "thieves...like honey badgers," shameless in their plunder of any part left untethered.

If the photo above is any indication, any Bikeep installation needs to be paired with a user education program.

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