Belfast Bikes: Tracking device precaution to combat thieves and vandals
Belfast Bikes are to be fitted with monitoring equipment as a new security precaution.
It emerged earlier this year that 210 of the 576 bicycles in the scheme had either been stolen or taken out of service due to vandalism, costing almost £1,800 per month.
Photographs surfaced online in April showing a bike that had been dumped in the River Lagan.
Over the Easter weekend 19 bikes were stolen and a further eight vandalised.
Following these incidents Belfast Bikes is now piloting what it has termed a research and development exercise, being held in conjunction with a number of partner organisations to gather information on the overall use of the bikes.
It starts this month and will run for a year.
A random selection of 200 Belfast Bikes will be fitted with an intelligent sensor device to improve security as well as gather information on where they have been cycled.
The move emerged in an email to scheme users last week.
It described the pilot project as a partnership between the Department for Infrastructure, Belfast City Council, Queen's University Belfast, Bristol University, cycling technology company See.Sense and British Telecom. The email explained that the information gathered will help improve the customer experience by examining the routes taken, cycle safety, cycle terrain and to improve the security of the Belfast Bikes.
"The data collected via the intelligent sensor device is rendered anonymous in such a way that the customer data is not identifiable nor is it available to any of the above listed participating organisations," the email said.
"Customer data is held on a separate information system and processed securely and in full compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 by NSL on behalf of Belfast City Council, who is the data controller.
"Both NSL and Belfast City Council are committed to protecting your privacy and this notice is to reassure customers that the pilot research and development exercise is not focused on gathering information about individual users.
"During the pilot exercise and subsequent data analysis, the two datasets will not be joined to identify individual customers unless the information is required to prevent and detect crime or the law places an obligation on Belfast City Council to do so.
"This will only occur if there is an absolute legal necessity and after careful consideration by Belfast City Council."
In the most recent incident of vandalism of Belfast Bikes, it is believed that some time between 9.30pm and 10pm on Sunday bikes at CS Lewis Square in east Belfast were damaged along with parts of the station.
Belfast City Council said: "We are aware of this incident and it has been reported to the police.
"We would urge anyone with any information on any incident of vandalism to pass this on to the PSNI."
The Belfast Bikes scheme was launched two years ago and attracted more than 100,000 users within its first seven months.
A number of new docking stations have been opened since the launch, with some of them placed at hospitals, universities and colleges.