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Citi Bike Pulls New Electric Bikes Off Streets, Citing Safety Concerns

Category: Business,Finance

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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.

In recent months, dozens of riders have reported injuries while riding electric Citi Bikes, prompting the company on Sunday to pull all of the approximately 1,000 electric bicycles from New York City’s streets amid safety concerns about the brakes. Lyft, which owns Citi Bike, took similar precautions with its other bike-sharing services in Washington and San Francisco.

“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 statement on its website. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively removing the pedal-assist bikes from service for the time being. We know this is disappointing to the many people who love the current experience — but reliability and safety come first.”

Lyft said it is working with its suppliers to understand the problem, while also working on a new electric-bike model that will be available soon. In the meantime, standard bikes will be installed to replace the pedal-assist bikes, the company said, noting it does not expect a service interruption.

Citi Bike had expected to have 4,000 electric bikes on the street by June. The bikes first arrived in New York in August, after the city approved new rules on electric bikes. The motor on the bikes, which require a rider to pedal to activate, can reach a maximum speed of about 18 miles per hour, a Lyft spokeswoman said. The city continues to ban throttle-controlled bikes, which are favored by delivery workers and can travel faster than 20 miles per hour.

In November 2018, Lyft, which began trading publicly on the stock market two weeks ago at an overall valuation of more than $24 billion, bought Motivate, the largest bike-share company in the United States.

Motivate operates Capital Bikeshare in Washington, Ford GoBike in San Francisco, among other companies across the country. A spokeswoman for Lyft said the electric bikes were only available in New York, Washington and San Francisco.

“The safety of New Yorkers is D.O.T.’s top priority,” Scott Gastel, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Transportation, said in a statement. “We expect Lyft to maintain a safe and fully operational fleet providing sufficient service and we will monitor as they investigate the cause of this brake issue.”

Citi Bike, which arrived in New York in 2013, has become an increasingly popular mode of transportation, with more than 145,000 members. On Sunday, avid users of the electric bikes expressed disappointment about their removal. Even some riders who were injured said they had used the electric bikes after crashes.

“It’s honestly tragic,” said Mr. Turton — in spite of his close call in Brooklyn two weeks ago. “I’ve been commiserating with my friends today who are also electric-bike enthusiasts.”

Mr. Turton said the electric bikes had cut his commute time in half.

Mr. Turton thought the crash he was involved in was his fault until he received an email from Citi Bike on Sunday morning that said the company was suspending the electric bikes because of issues with the brakes.

Marco Conner, the interim executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling advocacy organization, applauded Lyft for taking a proactive step in addressing potential safety issues before there were any deaths. Still, he added that he is looking forward to safe electric bikes returning to the streets in the near future.

“E-bikes have been shown to replace car trips, and in New York City where the average car trip is about 2 miles long, bike share and e-bikes are a great alternative to replace those short trips,” he said. “When you decide to take a bike trip instead of a car, you’re not putting your fellow New Yorkers in danger.”

Follow Tyler Pager on Twitter: @tylerpager.


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