Some weeks ago, three friends visited me in Amsterdam. We rented them three bikes at orangebike. After a long pub night, we locked the bikes and got on my boat to have a last drink on the calm water. We witnessed a guy walking up to one of the rental bikes, unlocking it somehow and driving away with it. It took 30 seconds. Sadly, we needed a minute to reach the shore and couldn't follow him.
In the end, we had to pay 240 Euros to orangebike. Had we opted to pay three Euros more per bike, the we would have been insured and only payed 50 Euros. We didn't do that, sadly.
Why? Because we lacked information. Most people who have to make decisions about a risk within a new, complex situation, lack information. That's what the ungodly high profits in the insurance world are all about.
I live in Amsterdam for a year now and have not seen a bike robbed or heard of a friend being robbed. I thought locking your bike is enough. Well, obviously it depends on what bike you have. I suspect a difference in risk between private bikes and rental bikes. Because after we came back, the guy at orangebike said that ours was already the fourth stolen orangebike on that same day. And only in that office (they have several in Amsterdam) Thanks for that extra information! You lose several bikes a day??
When you really know the stakes of all players in a market situation, you get a better picture (like mine I know have and sketched below*). But if you lack information, betting on a risk is unfair.
As we open up so much information these days, I would really like to see a public database, fed by everyone, for information attached to risks. Information like the one I present here about rental bikes in Amsterdam, but somehow organized. Imagine you come into a new situation, like having to decide wether to insure yourself against some risk, and you get the experience and information from a lot of customers and other involved stakeholders from the internet.
Risks, and the bets we have to place on them, are a really essential part of our lifes these days, and horribly abstract. It goes wrong all the time (look at the banking crisis). I am close to saying that it might be one of the great issues that the information age should tackle.
Not because of bikes. Although bikes are really important in this city. As you see, I take this issue pretty seriously myself :)
* Everyone but the tourist wins. Obviously, orangebike doesn't really care to have the best locks or give you a second lock for the wheel (like some other services do as I learned). They'll get their money for a new bike anyway. And as tourists normally leave the town the next day, they don't have to care about customer satisfaction. And for thieves it makes sense to go for the rental bikes. They can specialize on only one kind of lock, and all orangebikes use the same and are easily recognizable. You can walk up to one of them and break it if you are trained on the lock. And as we saw it, the whole processs looks like you're unlocking your own bike. Lastly, the insurance would stop insuring rental bikes if they wouldn't make a profit. Luckily for them, bike rental services don't really inform customers and so they don't really have to pay out recoveries a lot.