By Iris Knapman | Contributor
Cardiff city’s widely popular bike-hiring scheme “Nextbike” has been subjected to a wave of vandalization and theft crimes, with over 80 e-bikes damaged or stolen in the past five weeks.
Over the pandemic, the company has been closing in on 100,000 registered customers within the city. These numbers continue to grow after a successful expansion into Penarth. Many Cardiff residents have come to depend on the scheme as a flexible, affordable, and environmentally friendly way of both exercising and navigating the city, which is ideal for those who don’t own a motorised vehicle. The company’s UK managing director Krysia Solheim described it as shocking. She stated, “It has an impact on our customers […] People rely on the fleet to get around the city and every time a bike is made available due to vandalism or theft, it has a knock-on effect to the whole system.”
Nextbike has been working with the South Wales Police to track down those responsible for the bicycle theft. 20 arrests have been made on suspicion of theft and vandalism while 4 have been convicted to date. “The police have been very supportive, and we’re delighted that they have made arrests and convictions,” Solheim commented. She proceeded to urge members of the public to report all suspicious activity to aid the current investigation and prevent further crimes.
Police have reported that the Cardiff communities of Ely, Caerau, Llanederyn, Tremorfa and Riverside have all been hotspots for bike attacks.
Inspector Kevin Jones, who has been investigating the crimes against e-bikes, seconded this statement. Jones was also vocal about his personal support of the scheme for its benefit to residents and condemned “the minority who steal and vandalise these bike” for ruining the facilities for others.
“During lockdown they have given local residents the opportunity to exercise and carry out essential journeys in a convenient and environmentally-friendly manner.”
Damage to the e-bikes themselves was dealt to the front and rear lights, advertising panels, baskets, and kickstands. Furthermore vandals are said to have attacked the bike stations, breaking signs, locks and bike stands, as well as covering them in graffiti.
Solheim explained the impact the damage has on Nextbike’s maintenance system. “It is taking our mechanics between two and four hours to repair the damaged bikes, depending on the severity of the vandalism. That’s time they could be spending on general maintenance.”
This would not be the first time vandals have targeted the scheme in Cardiff, with attacks against the bikes making news back in 2019. Similar damage was dealt to the bikes, with those responsible dismantling seats and lights and then abandoning the bikes in parks or on roadsides.
Authorities urge witnesses to acts of vandalism or bicycle theft to call 101. Additionally, abandoned and/or damaged Nextbikes can be reported to [email protected]