Thieves strike bike supply vending machines

All three BikeAid machines at park connectors hit, says owner

Less than four months after they were introduced, vending machines at park connectors selling bicycle repair equipment have had their first cases of theft.

The BikeAid vending machines, selling items such as repair kits and inner tubes, were rolled out at the end of last year at three locations - Punggol Waterway Park, Punggol Point Park and Punggol Promenade Riverside Walk.

On its Facebook page, bike shop Yap Bicycle Compania - which operates the vending machines - noted at least nine cases of theft and vandalism at all three machines in the first two months of this year.

In most cases, the culprits had simply rocked the machines to try and dislodge the items inside, said shop owner Christopher Yap, 47.

However, in some instances, the culprits had targeted "higher value items", such as a chain cleaning set worth $50.

Prices of the items range from $8 to $50.

Mr Yap told The Straits Times that each of the machines has a closed-circuit camera which relays video footage to cloud storage.

"Even if they manage to remove the cameras, there's no way for them to get rid of the video," he said, adding that the footage is kept for up to a month before being deleted.

Mr Yap posts such theft cases on his company's Facebook page in order to raise awareness, as well as to get help from members of Singapore's cycling community to identify those responsible.

He is considering tightening the security of the machines, such as placing them in enclosures, which prevent the machines from being rocked or broken into.

Despite the thefts, Mr Yap still hopes to introduce more vending machines along the park connectors. "I don't see (the thefts) as a big problem," he said, adding that he will be "a bit more careful" in finding suitable locations for the machines.

Sales from the machines have been increasing, he said, though he did not give figures.

The Singapore Police Force confirmed that police reports had been filed regarding the thefts, and said investigations are ongoing.

Cycling enthusiast Azmi Mohamed compared the thieves to those who abuse shared bikes. "The vending machines are a good idea, but they (the culprits) are spoiling it for everyone else," said the 35-year-old IT professional.

More retailers here are turning to vending machines, with more than 20,000 located islandwide.

Sales from such machines in Singapore amounted to $67.2 million last year, according to data from market research firm Euromonitor International.

The police said to prevent theft, vending machine operators can consider measures such as installing closed-circuit cameras and alarms, as well as locks to prevent brute force access to the compartments where cash and merchandise are stored.