Thieves swipe artist's bikes placed around town for free public use

Hutchinson, KS - (NBC) - The honor system is being put to the test in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Last month, five brightly painted bikes were places around downtown Hutchinson. It was the idea of a local artist.

"The bigger picture of the bike project was to begin a dialogue with the city, with the community members about bike signage, trails, bike lanes, bike safety awareness," said Jennifer Randall with the Public Bike Project. "With every community if you have the weather to participate, I think bicycles are a great way to get around."

Anyone could take one of the bikes and ride it anywhere in town they wanted. Organizers say it was a popular program during its first couple of weeks.

"We would notice the bikes move from this end of town to that end of town and they would be bunched up - maybe around the sandwich shop," Randall said.

It didn't take long, though, for the bikes to vanish. Over the Memorial Day weekend, all five bicycles were apparently stolen.

"To have them stolen, that's just ridiculous," said Wane Stawder, a Hutchinson resident. "The community ought to get behind this and support this."

After news of the thefts was reported in the paper and broadcast on local television, three of the bikes were returned. Randall believes public outrage likely played a role in their return.

More donated bikes will soon be painted up and made ready for the road. They now may be locked up at night, but Randall says they won't let a few greedy thieves from stopping the program.

"If someone needs one that bad, I guess off it will go," she said.

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