UPDATED, Feb. 20, 2020: Electric Citi Bikes have returned to New York City, 10 months after the fleet was pulled from operation due to reported braking concerns.
The bike deployment coincides with an announcement from Mayor Bill de Blasio that the city will construct 10 new miles of protected bike lanes in Manhattan this year. The bike lane expansion is part of the city's Green Wave plan to improve cyclist safety. The de Blasio administration says it has built over 400 miles of bike lanes since 2014.
- Lyft has removed several thousand electric bikes from New York City, San Francisco and Washington, DC because of problems with their brakes, the company and three bike-share agencies said Sunday.
- The company said customers reported “stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel,” so out of “an abundance of caution,” they have been temporarily removed and replaced by traditional pedal bikes. Lyft also said it is "hard at work" on a new electric bike, which is accessible by QR code and so may represent Lyft’s first foray into dockless bikes.
- “We know this is disappointing to the many people who love the current experience — but reliability and safety come first,” Citi Bike, Capital Bikeshare and Ford GoBike, the three affected agencies that are controlled by Lyft-owned Motivate, said in identical blog posts.
It's not the first time this year a mobility company has had issues with its electric-powered vehicles. In February, Lime announced it detected a firmware bug that, “under rare circumstances,” was causing scooters to brake suddenly, when scooters were riding downhill at top speed and hit an obstacle, such as a pothole or another barrier. The company said a software update fixed the problem. There have also been concerns that the batteries on some electric bikes and scooters could catch fire, prompting a recall.
This latest incident is particularly significant in New York City, given Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent statements that electric bikes pose “a real danger” to the safety of city streets. New York has continued to expand its Citi Bike program, including by adding electric bikes, while it has rolled out limited trials of dockless bikes in certain neighborhoods in a very controlled environment. As the city ponders bills that would legalize electric scooters, this latest setback could weigh heavily.
For Lyft, the news comes on the heels of its recent initial public offering (IPO), and while the issue is on a relatively limited basis, it speaks to an issue it raised in its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that its business reputation could be harmed by factors outside of its control. In that document, Lyft warned investors that “[n]egative perception of our platform or company may harm our reputation, brand and networks effects.”
In quickly removing these bikes from the streets, Lyft has shown it takes the problem seriously and is determined to avoid any further issues.