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Police looking for person who painted, scrawled messages on Pronto bikes

Image from SPD
Image from SPD

Pronto Cycle Share launched in October, introducing 500 identical green bikes on the streets of Seattle. But I guess they’re not all identical anymore.

Police are seeking a man they say vandalized two Pronto bikes, painting one entirely silver and writing all over the other with a permanent marker. Damages are estimated at around $1,250 in part because the silver bike may not be salvageable.

Police say the man used the same credit card to check out both bikes.

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Like anything in public space, Pronto does expect some vandalism to equipment. And some of it is fairly harmless, like this Mike Tyson sticker. And with Alaska Airlines in the protest spotlight over $15 minimum wage issues (Councilmember Kshama Sawant was arrested last week protesting at their headquarters), I have wondered if the bikes could become targets.

The recent vandalism, however, does not appear to have a clear message.

So, to recap: Don’t vandalize Pronto bikes. Pronto has to pay to repair them, not Alaska Airlines. But if you absolutely have to do something, at the very least don’t damage the working parts.

Details from SPD:

Police are searching for a velocipede vandal who rented two bikes from a Seattle bike share company last week, only to return them hours later covered in paint and scrawled messages.

The suspect first rented one of Pronto’s bright-green custom-made bicycles from a bike station at 3rd Avenue and Pike Street around 5 AM on November 13th. Six hours later, he returned the bicycle to the same location, after scrawling messages and strings of numbers in permanent ink on the bike’s frame.

Around 2PM that afternoon, the same suspect rented a second Pronto bike at Westlake Ave N and Republican Street and spent two hours coating the bike in silver paint. The suspect then returned the repainted bicycle to the Westlake and Republican station.

The two incidents caused an estimated $1250 in damage.

Police believe both bikes were vandalized by the same man, as it appears he used his credit card to rent both bicycles. Detectives are still working to locate the man.

While the suspect’s motivation remains unclear, SPD Graffiti Detective Chris Young says he doesn’t believe the suspect intended to make an artistic statement.

When asked whether he believes crime and art can ever be the same thing, Det. Young paused for a contemplative moment. “It’s all about permission,” he said.

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11 responses to “Police looking for person who painted, scrawled messages on Pronto bikes”

  1. Marge Evans

    If they know who checked out the bikes, why don’t they just bill their credit card?

    1. Richrd

      Well, it says the same card was used… I wonder if it might have been a stolen card, or maybe just one of those prepaid gift cards – something like that preventing them from identifying the actual user.

  2. Teri

    I had no idea SPD had its very own “graffiti detective”!

  3. W

    I can’t be the only one who prefers the vandalized bike to the clean ones, right?

    1. Cheif

      Certainly not, plenty of people do meth in washington state.

      1. AW

        If Pronto were smart, they would run a special marketing campaign that encouraged people to look out for the silver pronto and tweet its location and post on whatever the current social marketing sites are these days. Create some buzz !

      2. ChefJoe

        Yeah, because that’s not going to encourage anyone with some silver Krylon sprays to further modify some bikes. :-S

  4. Jack


    Just like the “look” for graffiti “artists” and taggers.

    Hope they don’t wear themselves out.

  5. ODB

    “But if you absolutely have to do something, at the very least don’t damage the working parts.”

    It’s not clear to me why anyone would “absolutely have to” vandalize a bicycle. Anyway, I imagine trying to fix vandalism like the silver spray job, which doesn’t damage the working parts, would likely be more costly to the bike share program than simply replacing working parts like a tire or a pedal. The bottom line is, why even go down the road of advising people regarding the relative acceptability of different forms of vandalism? If you support the financial viability of the bike share system, why not just condemn any form vandalism pure and simple?

  6. Erik Busse

    Who didn’t think that was going to happen………?

    1. Gary

      I didn’t think anyone would be dumb enough to use their credit card to check out a bike before vandelizing it. I figured like most of the graffetti, it would be done in place.

      When I first saw this article I thought some artist group had grabbed a bike and “arted” it up, but nope, this guy is just off his rocker.

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