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Citi Bike pulls its pedal-assist e-bikes over safety concerns

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The company says the removal of e-bikes from NYC streets is “out of an abundance of caution”

Pedal-assist Citi Bikes launched in August 2018.
Courtesy of NYC Department of Transportation

Less than a year after Citi Bike launched its fleet of pedal-assist, electric bicycles in the city, those two-wheelers have been taken off the streets.

In an email that was sent to users early Sunday morning (and later posted to the company’s blog), Citi Bike stated that it had received “a small number of reports from riders who experienced stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel.”

“After a small number of reports and out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively pausing our electric bikes from service,” Julie Wood, a Citi Bike spokesperson, said in a statement. “Safety always comes first.”

But according to the New York Daily News, the braking issue led to several instances of riders vaulting over the handlebars—including a 59-year-old Upper West Sider who broke his hip while riding one of the e-bikes.

“Everybody was waiting for a situation like this because they were worried someone was going to get hurt,” a Citi Bike employee told the Daily News.

The e-bike fleet debuted last summer after new legislation passed that allowed pedal-assist bicycles (but not their faster throttle cousins) on city streets. According to the company, its e-bikes—which rolled out separately from the city’s dockless bike-share pilot—could reach a top speed of 18 miles per hour.

Citi Bike was acquired by Lyft last year, and a big expansion of the pedal-assist fleet—from the initial batch of 200 to more than 4,000—was set to be one of the company’s big initiatives for 2019. The downside of that expansion would be an extra charge for e-bikes: Using one would cost an additional $2, or an additional 50 cents for those who qualify under the reduced fare program.

Still, the speedier bikes have proven quite popular since they were introduced last summer: Data released by Citi Bike shows that riders using pedal-assist bikes are using them for longer trips—including more trips over East River bridges—and that the bikes are getting more use in inclement weather.

Lyft also announced that it has pulled its e-bike fleet in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. The move is expected to be temporary, and according to the company’s blog post, it will soon debut a new-pedal assist bike that will allegedly be easier to use and “more fun to ride.” In the meantime, traditional two-wheelers will be deployed to fill in the fleet.