Commentary

Lyft Applies Brakes To E-Bikes In Response To Accident Reports

Lyft, which operates bicycle-sharing operations under different names in several major cites, is temporarily pulling electric bikes from its fleets because of a braking problem that has seen some riders flip over the handlebars. 

“‘We recently received a small number of reports from riders who experienced stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel,’ the company said in a  blog post emailed to customers on Sunday,” Reuters’ Imani Moise writes.

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“The company’s bike share division is working to replace about 3,000 pedal-assist bikes in New York, Washington and San Francisco with traditional bikes to prevent service interruptions. The company already operates about 17,000 traditional bikes in those cities,” Moise adds. "The company said it had been working on a new electric bike model that would be ready to deploy soon.”

Lyft operates Citi Bike in New York, Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C. and Ford GoBike in San Francisco, 

“It’s an e-saster,” posts Gersh Kuntzman onStreetsblog NYC in breaking the story.

“The bikes started disappearing off the Citi Bike map earlier this weekend, but the Lyft-owned company issued a ‘service update’ to its 150,000 members on Sunday at 5 a.m. after Streetsblog inquired about the missing electric-assist bikes late Saturday night,” Kuntzman continues.

“‘After a small number of reports and out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively pausing our electric bikes from service,’ spokeswoman Julie Wood said. ‘Safety always comes first.’”

Tyler Pager dishes up some specific incidents in the New York Times: “A month ago, Jordan Wyckoff was riding an electric Citi Bike to work in Brooklyn when he slammed on the brakes to avoid a minivan that swerved in the bike lane. But when he hit the brakes, the front wheel locked up, sending Mr. Wyckoff over the front of the handlebars and onto the pavement.

“The same thing happened to Dominik Glodzik when he tried to brake before a stop sign in Astoria, Queens about two months ago.

“William Turton flipped over the front of an electric Citi Bike while trying to brake before an intersection on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.”

Pager later reveals that Turton thought the crash was his fault until he received a letter yesterday from Citi Bike about the suspension of e-bike rentals.

Meanwhile, “avid e-biker Bill Crumlic” tells the New York Post’s Reuven Fenton and Aaron Feis about “a harrowing” experience last month. 

“The 53-year-old videographer said he was riding his pedal-assist Citi Bike down Central Park West when he braked for a pedestrian, hit the brakes -- and a pothole -- and went flying.

“‘The bike landed on me. And let me tell you, those f–kers are heavy,’ Crumlic said. ‘I got banged up and bruised, but luckily had no broken bones.’

“But Crumlic stopped short of blaming the bike, saying that pedal-assist brakes are known to be touchy, adding that he was sad to see them go,” Fenton and Feis report.

“Lyft last year became the largest bikeshare operator in the United States when it acquired Motivate, owners of New York's Citi Bike and DC’s Capital Bikeshare. That expanded its for-hire bikes to cities including Chicago, Boston, and Portland,” Victoria Cavaliere writes for CNN Business.

Lyft, which went public in March, has set out to end car ownership, primarily in the United States, with a suite of alternative transportation options. In addition to ride-sharing and bikes, the company has expanded into carpooling and scooter rentals.

The company beat its chief rival, Uber, to an IPO. According to its IPO prospectus, Lyft's share of the U.S. ride-hailing market spiked to 39% in December 2018 from 22% at the end of 2016.

“The e-assist bikes are widely known to help cyclists traverse San Francisco’s many steep hills, a feat difficult even for more experienced riders. Many expressed disbelief and disappointment in reaction to Ford GoBike’s announcement,” Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguezwrites for the San Francisco Examiner.

“‘I get around the city with Ford (e-bikes) almost every day and it’s saved me a ton of time and money otherwise spent on Ubers or MUNI,’ wrote Twitter user @heatherGrey_, who hails from San Francisco, in a tweet. ‘It’s been the best mode of transit I’ve ever experience and I hope you bring it back soon!'"

At least for now, Grey and others are going to be burning off a lot of calories if they choose to pedal.

“Quads, hamstrings, glutes — remember those muscles, Capital Bikeshare users?” is Ian Shapira’s lede for the Washington Post.

“You’d better.”

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