February 26, 2020
Electric bikes are back in the rack for New York City bike share users after a dangerous mechanical problem forced Lyft to pull them from the streets last year.
"We've completely redesigned this e-bike, so we have a new braking system, new battery, new motor," Citi Bike General Manager Laura Fox told Cheddar
Lyft, which bought out the bike-share system in 2018, recalled the first batch of e-bikes in April 2019 due to a braking problem that caused multiple injuries and lawsuits. The bikes had been assembled without a key component that stops the brakes from overcompensating and tossing riders over the handlebars, according to reports at the time.
The rideshare giant said the new design solves these problems. In addition, the motor is now placed on the back wheel rather than the front, which Fox said gives riders a greater sense of control.
"This bike is meant to be the most seamless experience for a rider of any level of ability, whether you're riding a bike all the time and just want an easier ride into work or you're a first-time rider who's looking to hop on a bike and go," she said.
E-bikes might offer a smoother ride, but the convenience comes at a cost. Lyft is charging 10 cents per minute for annual Citi Bike members, and 15 cents per minute for non-members. That's compared with a flat $2 rate before the recall.
Getting more riders to try bike share is central to Lyft's plans for the system, although Citi Bike racks currently remain limited to Manhattan and smaller sections of Brooklyn and Queens. The company sees e-bikes as a way to broaden the appeal of bike share for riders who could benefit from a little boost.
"Traditional riders don't love going over a bridge to take a sustainable mode of transit into work," Fox said. "E-bikes really fix that problem. It feels like you're going on a straightaway."
Making bridges more accessible is top of mind for Lyft, as it embarks on a massive $100 million expansion that will extend Citi Bike into far-flung corners of the five boroughs. Over the next four years, the system will add 4,000 new bikes and double the size of its service area.
The larger footprint is meant to serve Citi Bike's ongoing efforts to make the system more accessible and equitable, while also balancing demand and convenience across the city.
"We're going into a lot of communities that historically have been transit deserts, so places where there hasn't been a subway and there haven't been strong bus networks," Fox said.