I mean, when you design your bike to resemble a spare part from the board game Mouse Trap, what do you expect. (Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Down in Mountain View, California, the idyllic West Coast community that harbors Google corporate headquarters, two values are paramount. First, that everyone tolerates those damn Google buses. And second, your stupid Google bicycles are fair game. At least, that seems to have been the general operating principle in the surrounding neighborhoods, whose residents have taken Google’s policy of providing free bikes to its employees to get around its voluminous offices (sorry, “campus”) and reinterpreted it as “go ahead, take one to get to Trader Joe’s, and then leave it in your garage, who knows, maybe you’ll head back out to Bed, Bath, And Beyond later.”

That liberal understanding of the program is about to be severely hampered, almost as though it were an academic critical of Google or something. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company has hired 30 contractors whose sole purpose is to go around the community and get those bikes back. Google internal estimates say between 100 and 250 of those brightly colored little bastards—known as “Gbikes,” presumably short for “Go on, it’s your bike!”—go missing on a weekly basis, out of an ongoing total of 1,100 bikes provided for employee use. The business began the practice back in 2007, instituting the current policy of mobile day-glo nightmares two years later. Other tactics to prevent the vanishing of bikes include a GPS attachment and new locks that can only be opened via an employee phone.


But Mountain View will not go gently into that good (irradiated, bicycle-less) night, considering the use of those bikes a right for the residents of what is awfully close to being a company town. Sharon Veach, a 68-year-old employee at Google competitor Oracle, called the Gbikes are “a reward for having to deal with the buses” that dominate the streets each morning. “I ride a bicycle…to balance it out,” she said. Even the town’s mayor, Ken Rosenberg, admitted to riding a Gbike to go see a movie one afternoon following a meeting at Google.

Perhaps the contractors are simply an effort to try and bring the bikes back onto Google property each day, without seriously altering the lax policy toward allowing citizens to borrow them as well. Or perhaps this is simply the first step toward securing all transportation in Mountain View, in order to replace it with a self-driving Google car that consumes hope instead of fuel. First they came for the Honda Civics, and we said nothing...