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Bike Sharing

App Helps You Find Elusive Electric Citi Bikes

4:20 PM EDT on September 14, 2018

Haven't made it on one of Citi Bike's new pedal-assist electric bikes? There's an app — er, online mapping tool — for that.

Frustrated by her inability to find one the popular but sparse e-bikes, Brooklyn Heights software developer Aliza Aufrichtig took Citi Bike's real-time data and created an easy-to-use online guide: The tool makes the e-bikes easier to locate on a map, and, more important, generates an easy-to-read list of every available e-bike.

"I wanted to ride an e-bike and was having trouble finding them," Aufrichtig said. "I very quickly spun up something to very easily see where they were."

It's been almost a month since bike-share operator Motivate added 200 e-bikes to its 12,000-bike network, with more bikes slated to join the fleet before next spring's L train shutdown. The bikes are a joy to ride, but are also extremely hard to come by. The bikes are also hard to spot on Citi Bike's map.

"It’s hard to see, overall, where they are. You can only see the little lightning bolt when you zoom into a specific area," Aufrichtig said. "[This tool] just makes it easier to see and help you when they’re there."

Beyond the Citi Bike app, the main problem seems to be that there aren't really 200 e-bikes available. Certainly, when a pedal-assist bike is check out, it won't show up in the app. But since creating her mapping tool last week, Aufrichtig says the most e-Citi Bikes that she has seen on her map has been 32 bikes. Usually, it's closer to 10 to 15.

A Motivate spokesperson declined to say how many e-Citi Bikes are available. But the spokesperson did say that bikes are out of service more frequently than the company initially expected. Swapping out the spent batteries, for example, presents "an additional operational challenge," the spokesperson added, but the process is "getting better and more efficient... every day."

So far, the average e-Citi Bike is getting 15 rides per day, compared to six rides per day for the "classic" Citi Bike, according to Motivate.

"The fact that there’s so high adoption rates means that if you plug a bike in, 30 seconds later it gets rented out," the spokesperson said.

Indeed, at the moment we published this story, there were only seven e-Citi Bikes available in the entire bike share zone.

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