• Google changed Silicon Valley with its free company bikes that help employees get across its giant corporate campus.
  • But locals in Mountain View, California -- where Google is based -- reportedly view the bikes as their own and end up displacing 100 to 250 bikes on a weekly basis.
  • Now Google is trying to cut its losses. It's hired a team of 30 contractors to retrieve bikes from around the city, and it is testing other solutions like GPS trackers and bike locks, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Google changed corporate America and Silicon Valley with company perks, like free bikes for employees to get across sprawling office parks. 

But the community of Mountain View, California -- where Google is headquartered -- has caught on, forcing Google to rethink just how "free" its bikes really are, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The company estimates that between 100 and 250 of its 1,100 multi-colored "Gbikes" disappear on a weekly basis, and it's started to take actions to reduce those numbers.

Among the solutions, the company hired a team of 30 contractors and five designated vans whose only job is to retrieve Gbikes from around the community, according to The Journal.

Google is also testing GPS trackers on some of its bikes, and locks that only Google employees can open using their cell phones, according to the report.  

Google first launched its bike program in 2007, and switch over to its iconic, multicolored two-wheelers in 2009. 

By 2015, bike sharing switched from a company-wide initiative to an opportunity for Google to change the world. The company launched a $5 million grant to develop more bike-friendly cities, and worked closely with Mountain View to make its local streets as bikable as the city of Copenhagen.

So it's no wonder that the people of Mountain View see the bikes as a "friendly gesture" from the company to residents of the city. 

Mountain View Mayor Ken Rosenberg told The Journal that he used one of the bikes after a meeting on the Google campus, and Sharon Veach, a 68-year-old Mountain View resident, said she sometimes borrows one on her commute to work at Oracle, a Google competitor.

Veach told The Journal that the bikes are “a reward for having to deal with the buses,” referencing the hundreds of so-called Google Buses that employees living in San Francisco and surrounding cities use to get to work. 

“I ride a bicycle…to balance it out,” Veach told The Journal.

This post originially appeared on Business Insider. 

Published on: Jan 9, 2018