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Free cycle(s): Activists call to ‘liberate’ rental bikes

Mobike bicycles can be found all over Berlin. Now online activists are urging Berliners to steal the rental bikes.

Fahrradfahrer*innen auf der Straße bei Critical Mass-Fahrt.
Berliners do love their bikes, here at a Critical Mass. (Photo: Kristoffe Swetje / BUNDjugend FahrradBande)

In an ideal city, all bikes belonging to bike sharing systems and obstructing Berlin’s pavements would be usable for everyone for free. This is, presumably, also what a number of cycling activists have been thinking. Recently, they explained on Twitter how to remove the lock and the GPS receiver on the bikes, garble the label, and repaint the distinctive orange spokes. Legally this is theft, but they see it as liberation of the bikes. And as a practical critique of the company — Mobike has been criticised for its data collection practices. Last year, a similar manual was uploaded encouraging the theft of Obikes.

These actions hit a nerve. While Berlin is supposed to, one day, become a cycling haven, no relevant measures are taken to equip all Berliners with a bike. The interest is definitely there: last year, Berlin’s senate provided financial assistance for buyers of e-cargo bikes — the fund of €200,000 ran out within a day.

Translated by Aida Baghernejad



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