Citi Bike to bring back electric bicycles this winter

Pedal-assist electric bikes from Citi Bike. (Motivate International Inc.)

After pulling its electric pedal-assist bicycles from its fleet earlier this year, the operator of Citi Bike announced it would bring back ebikes "this winter." (It didn't give a more precise date.)

"We know our riders love pedal-assist electric bikes—and we love them too. You've been patiently waiting for their return, and today we want to let you know that will happen this winter," Motivate said in a blog post. "While we hoped to have them back this fall, we are taking extra time to make sure they're safe and ready for New York City streets."

The ebikes first debuted in New York in February. But by April, a number of customers reported that the bikes were braking too hard so the operator pulled them from the streets.

Paul Buijs told the AP in April that he was riding an ebike into Manhattan when he hit the brakes to avoid a minivan and was flung through the air.

"It basically just catapulted me face-first into the road," Buijs said at the time.

"As you know, earlier this year we removed ebikes after some riders experienced stronger-than-expected braking force on the front wheel," Motivate said in its blog post. "Several months after that, we also experienced challenges with batteries on our ebikes in the Bay Area."

The company, which is owned by Lyft, said it is "making progress" in redesigning the ebike's brake setup and working with a new battery supplier.

"We expect to initially launch several hundred ebikes this winter and will gradually ramp up to a larger fleet," Motivate said. "We're sorry for the delay and appreciate your patience."

The company also said that it has rethought its pricing structure for using the electric bikes. When the ebikes first debuted in New York, riders paid an additional $2 charge that the company said was to help pay for battery charging and maintenance.

But after hearing feedback from users, the operator announced that annual Citi Bike members will pay an ebike surcharge of 10 cents per minute and non-members will pay 15 cents per minute.

"Now you'll pay only for the length of time you ride instead of a flat fee no matter how far you're going," the company said. "We've done the math, and the majority of riders will pay less for ebike rides with per minute pricing."

Citi Bike has stations in several neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Manhattan as well as in Jersey City, New Jersey. But a report released in July noted that the bike-share program lags in some of the city's underprivileged communities.


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