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Lyft Still Insists E-Citi Bikes Will Be Back By Fall

The next Mayor of New York City, Borough President Eric Adams, on a Citi Bike e-bike in 2019. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

What are we, chopped liver?

San Francisco will get its electric bikes from Lyft before New York's e-Citi Bikes return to the streets.

Last Friday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced that Lyft would add a total of 4,000 of hybrid dockless/dockable pedal-assist bikes into the Bay Wheels bike share system starting in mid-December. But Lyft has only promised New Yorkers that our version will roll out on or before Dec. 20.

"Nothing has changed" in the timeline for the return of e-Citi Bikes, a company spokesman said, adding that Lyft has pushed the very limits of its promise to bring the bikes back "in the fall" because of "rigorous" testing to make sure the bikes were safe and reliable when they came back.

It's been purgatory without them.

In mid-April, all of Lyft's e-bikes in three cities were pulled off the streets "out of an abundance of caution" after "a small number of reports" revealed that over-sensitive brakes were sending some riders over the handlebars. The braking problem stemmed from Lyft's decision to not use a power modulator on a braking system supplied by Japanese bike brake company Shimano.

Lyft then announced that the pedal-assist bikes wouldn't return to New York City until sometime in the fall, but did reintroduce 1,000 pedal-assist bikes in the Bay Area in June. Those bikes had their own problems, though, in the form of exploding batteries that caused two bikes to catch fire. Citi Bike pedal-assist batteries also experienced their own explosion issues in March of this year, but those fires took place at repair hubs and not on the street. After the on-street fires in San Francisco, the bikes were then pulled off the street again.

In a Medium post, the company said it had "identified the root cause" of battery issues in San Francisco, and were now reassembling its pedal-assist bikes with batteries from a new supplier. The new rollout with be the third time Lyft sends pedal-assist bikes into the Bay Wheels system. Citi Bike's e-bikes will have the same batteries when they return.

The delay in reintroducing the bikes for a second time got to be such an irritation in San Francisco that that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency threatened to pull Lyft's exclusive permit for pedal-assist bike service in the Bay Area if the company couldn't get the bikes back on the street by Oct. 15.

Lyft missed that deadline, but the bikes will still be back on the street in San Francisco by next month.

We're waiting.

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