HUTCHINSON —Organizers of downtown Hutchinson's Public Bike Project expected some of the bikes might be stolen.
But after all five of the colorful bikes included in the project turned up missing one morning last week, organizers say they wonder whether something more sinister is going on.
The Public Bike Project was introduced to the community at May's Third Thursday event.
The bikes stayed out over the weekend and then, in one night, seemed to all disappear, said Danny Brizendine, who has been helping with the project.
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"They are aluminum-framed bikes, so we are wondering if someone is cutting them down to sell," he said.
The project provides around 10 bicycles that can be ridden from business to business in the downtown area and left in bike racks for the next person to use.
The bikes were painted by local artists to make them clearly identifiable.
A laminated "manifesto" — or a disclosure — also was attached to each bike alerting riders that they are riding at their own risk and that the bike is community property that should be treated with respect and left in the condition in which it was found.
Brizendine said the project would continue to replace the bikes — at least for now.
"We'll put out more, but we're going to stop at 20," he said. "If one was gone and then sometime later another disappeared, that's one thing. But for them to be gone all at once — it felt like a sweep to me."