Google’s offices in Mountain View look like a park with tree-lined streets and trails that lead to the San Francisco Bay. There are lawn chairs, picnic benches and bikes everywhere.
This colorful corporate fleet of bikes are just one of the many perks Google employees enjoy. Technically, only they can ride them, but Google doesn’t bother locking them up. Nor does the company restrict them to the Googleplex.
Employees often take the bikes to the movies, restaurants and transit hubs. As a result, the bikes end up everywhere.
They’re part of the landscape, like stray shopping carts. Pedestrians have to step over bikes left lying on the sidewalk. Lovers on dates and Silicon Valley tourists go to Google for a joyride. And people steal them without knowing the newer ones have GPS trackers.
In 2007, Google bought 100 bikes. A decade later, there are more than 1,500.
In that time, Google bikes have become a symbol of the tech giant itself and of tech culture. They are visual proof of tech’s privilege.