Micromobility operator Lime has begun testing hardware solutions to prevent its e-bikes from being tampered with.
The move follows Westminster City Council reports of hacked e-bikes being ridden for free in the London borough. This was after videos circulated across social media demonstrating how to bypass the dockless bike software.
Concerns have been raised that riders using hacked bikes are untraceable. This means that users can potentially dump bikes on the pavement without facing punishment.
Zag spoke with Lime’s Senior Public Affairs Manager, Hal Stevenson, who said: “We are aware of a limited issue of unlocked bikes being ridden without power in London, and have worked quickly to identify hardware solutions to prevent it, which are now being tested.
“We continue to ensure extensive measures such as wheel locks, tamper alarms, and enhanced cybersecurity for our cloud operations system are in place to prevent our bikes from being tampered with.”
Lime is encouraging riders or members of the public to report any incidents of tampering or vandalism to the relevant social media platform. “We are working with the likes of TikTok to ensure a removal process is in place,” said Stevenson.
Social media incentives
Julian Scriven, Managing Director of Brompton Bike Hire, told Zag that events like these permanently challenge micromobility operators. “It is terrible to see that ‘hacks’ to access shared e-bikes are on the rise and more worrying how freely this is being shared on platforms like TikTok.
“This is anyone in the shared micromobility world’s worst nightmare, as often even fixing it only results in turning it into a game for those who do it. The possibility of their hack going viral only adds an extra incentive.
Scriven said that while its Brompton locker system is “incredibly secure”, no operator can assume they are immune and so the firm is constantly iterating extra security protocols.
Dockless e-bikes seized
Since August last year, Westminster City Council has been seizing any bikes considered an “imminent risk to public safety” under the Highways Act 1980.
Lime has since introduced several strategies to avoid its bikes being dumped or badly parked, including a minimum £10 fine and rewards for responsible parking.
No-parking zones have also recently been set up in several key West End locations following discussions with the council.
Other measures include banning repeat offenders of misparked vehicles; a pledge from Lime to remove any vehicles that are reported as being parked inconsiderately within one hour; and expanding its foot patrol team by 50% during the busy summer period.