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Electric Avenue: E-Citi Bikes Will Double, But Footprint Won’t

Lyft will double the number of electric Citi Bikes while also reducing the speed of its second generation e-bikes — but the announcement made by the mayor's office this morning raised the possibility that super-charged rides would soar in price in the coming years.

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

More bikes, less speed, more money, same map.

Lyft will double the number of electric Citi Bikes while also reducing the speed of its second generation e-bikes — but the announcement made by the mayor's office this morning raised the possibility that super-charged rides would soar in price in the coming years.

The doubling of the electric bike fleet — currently 10,000 — will be completed by the end of next year and will "expand and improve the Citi Bike system" and "promote cycling," the Adams administration announced. By the end of 2024, Citi Bike is expected to have 40,000 total bikes at 2,000 stations covering only one-third of the city, albeit the most densely populated areas where 60 percent of New Yorkers and 70 percent of New York City Housing Authority tenants live.

Slow rollout. Map: DOT (with Streetsblog)

The mayor's announcement said that Citi Bike electric bikes would be capped at 18 miles per hour, down from the current 20-mile-per-hour max today. (And in another nod to safety, City Hall said the Department of Transportation will launch a public awareness campaign on "safe e-bike operations" that will include "marketing and direct community education."

But left out of the mayor's announcement on Friday was any talk of expanding Citi Bike beyond the current expansion (dark blue on the map). With more electric bikes comes the ability for commuters to cover more distance, including from Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Elmhurst, Hunts Point and other areas — yet none is scheduled to receive Citi Bike.

The mayor's announcement also did not refer to a key promise he made on the campaign trail: using public money to expand Citi Bike. In fact, the announcement makes no mention of any city money at all, putting the responsibility on Lyft to expand the fleet — and electrify 20 percent of the docking stations "over the coming years."

That vague timeline is an attempt to rein in Lyft's costs of keeping their electric bikes charged, which requires fresh batteries to be shuttled by van to replenish drained two-wheelers. Until then, the cost of an electric Citi Bike ride is expected to rise, somewhat dramatically.

Currently, a Citi Bike member pays $0.17 per minute for an electric ride. The contract extension announced on Friday says that price can be increased to $0.24 per minute for members, $0.36 for non-members, and $0.12 per minute for reduced-fare bike share members. (Fears of a sudden price hike were mitigated by the fact that per-minute costs were previously uncapped, yet did not rise anywhere near the caps in the new deal.)

At the same time, the annual memberships that currently cost $205 will be allowed only to rise to $210 over the life of the contract, which now runs through 2029. Starting in January, all new Citi Bike memberships and renewals will come with 60 free e-bike minutes.

Citi Bike members get free rides on non-electric bikes, yet Citi Bike electric bikes have proven to be extremely popular despite the additional cost, with 46 percent of all rides currently being taken on a battery-powered, pedal-assist bike (with a UL-certified power pack), even though such bikes are roughly one-fifth of the fleet. Those e-bike trips are up from 14 percent of rides in 2020.

Citi Bike has added 2,800 classic bikes and replaced 2,200 existing bikes as a part of its Phase 3 expansion, the Adams press release said. Some of those blue bikes date back to Citi Bike's 2013 launch.

Since then, Citi Bike has become something of a transit phenomenon. In August 2023, the system set a monthly record with over four million rides, up 63 percent from the same month in 2019. On Oct. 28, there were 161,422 Citi Bike rides, which the DOT believes represents one-quarter of the total cycling trips on an average day in New York.

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