Lyft Pulls E-Bikes From Service Amid Alarming Reports of Excessive Braking

Bicycles that are part of the NYC Bike Share program are lined up at a dock and lock station at the Brooklyn Navy Yards in New York.
Photo: Craig Ruttle (AP)

Following reports of problematic braking that in some cases resulted in rider injury, Lyft is pulling its recently acquired network of e-bikes from service in three major cities. Those include Citi Bike in New York, GoBike in San Francisco, and Capital Bikeshare in Washington.

“After a small number of reports and out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively pausing our electric bikes from service,” a Citi Bike spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement by email. “Safety always comes first.

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Citi Bike said the issue affects the front-wheel braking system in markets with e-bikes operated by Motivate, which was acquired by Lyft last year ahead of its initial public offering. Lyft is reportedly planning to launch its own e-bike model soon.

Roughly 3,000 electric bikes are being pulled from service across the three regions, where Lyft also operates around 17,000 traditional bikes for sharing, Reuters reports. E-bikes that are currently docked will not be able to be rented for service, the news service added.

Citi Bike said in a blog post that the issue involved “stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel.” As anyone who has ever been on a bike likely understands, braking on the front wheel with too much force can send the rider flying over the handlebars or at the very least result in a tumble.

That’s evidently exactly what happened when Vice News Tonight correspondent William Turton, a former reporter for Gizmodo, experienced the issue firsthand:

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However, despite busting his face and receiving “a few cuts,” Turton told Gizmodo in a text message that Citi Bike’s electric bicycles “are the greatest creation of the modern age and I won’t be able to rest until they return.”

The Citi Bike spokesperson said that the company secured an outside engineering firm to identify the cause of the issue, but in the meantime, it is working to replace e-bikes with regular bikes to avoid service interruptions.

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In the same blog, Citi Bike said it is planning to deploy a new pedal-assist bike model soon, writing that the newer model “will be accessible just by scanning a QR code and overall will be more fun to ride.”

Here’s hoping “fun” means “reduced chance of unexpected braking and possible injury.”

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[New York Times]

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