Citi Bike delays rollout of e-bikes in New York City, tweaks fees

Citi bike
A Citi Bike user pulls out a bike at a dock station on Broadway near 51st Street in Manhattan, on May 17, 2017.

Citi Bike is delaying the re-introduction of its e-bike fleet after it had removed its bikes from service due to brake issues earlier this year.

The Lyft-owned bike share first promised to fix and roll out the pedal-assist bikes again in the fall, but Citi Bike is now aiming to relaunch its e-bikes this “winter” along with a new payment structure, according to an update sent to riders Friday afternoon.

“It’s taken longer than anticipated to get all the necessary components for the new bikes and complete safety testing, but we’re making progress,” Citi Bike wrote to riders.

The bike share pulled its popular, battery-powered bicycles from docks in New York City, San Fransisco and Washington, D.C., after riders reported unusually forceful front-wheel braking. One seasoned cyclist in the city said he broke his hip after a gentle tap on his e-bike brake locked his wheel and threw him from his bike.

“As you know, earlier this year we removed e-bikes after some riders experienced stronger-than-expected braking force on the front wheel,” Citi Bike continued in its update. “Several months after that, we also experienced challenges with batteries on our e-bikes in the Bay Area. Those issues led us to work with a new battery supplier while we simultaneously redesigned the bike’s brake setup.”

When the bikes finally do return though, they’ll come without a $2 charge per ride. Citi Bike will be eliminating the flat fee altogether, instead charging an additional 10 cents per minute for annual members and 15 cents per minute for non-members. Members will have their e-bike fees capped at $2 for any trip that starts or ends at a dock outside of Manhattan. The two-minute wait period between rides will also be eliminated to allow users to more quickly swap between a pedal bike and an e-bike.

Extra time fees will also be adjusted as well, beginning Jan. 15, to more accurately charge riders for time spent with their bikes, according to Citi Bike. Members will pay $0.15 per minute after the included 45 minutes — a change from the current $2.50 charge every 15 minutes. Riders with a single ride pass will pay $0.15 per minute after the included 30 minutes.

The update came shortly after Lyft announced it would redeploy its e-bikes in San Fransisco this December. A spokesman for Citi Bike said the Bay Area’s bike models — a hybrid fleet of deckles and docked rides — differed from New York’s, allowing Lyft to give a more definitive timeline for their return.

Citi Bike first introduced its e-bikes in New York City in August 2018, with plans to eventually grow to a fleet of 4,000. The bike share had roughly 1,000 e-bikes in circulation when they were pulled.

Lyft still plans for a goal of 4,000 bikes in the city’s system, but the timeline for that is not yet clear, according to the spokesman.

“We expect to initially launch several hundred e-bikes this winter and will gradually ramp up to a larger fleet,” Citi Bike said.