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Citi Bike’s electric bikes return as NYC works to beef up cycling infrastructure

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The blue e-bikes are back after they were pulled over safety concerns

Pedal-assist Citi Bikes launched in August 2018 but were pulled in April 2019 due to safety concerns.
Courtesy of NYC DOT

If you’re looking to amp up your commute, Citi Bike has a new—well, sort of—option to zip you across the boroughs. The bike-sharing service’s popular e-bikes returned Wednesday, 10 months after the pedal-assist two-wheelers were pulled due to a braking issue that sent some riders flying.

As of this week, Citi Bike has begun adding “several hundred” e-bikes to its network of 900 stations in New York City; the rollout will gradually increase over the next months, with 1,000 e-bikes coming to city streets by the end of 2020.

Citi Bike, which is owned by Lyft, was forced to remove the pedal-assist bikes last April after people were injured due to malfunctioning front brakes. The company says that new modifications to the bike’s design have resolved the issue: The revamped version operates with a rear-hub motor that runs on a battery attached to the bike’s roughly 60-pound frame. Instead of pushing a button to start the motor, these e-bikes will always be on.

A trip on an e-bike will cost 10 cents per minute for Citi Bike subscribers (an annual subscription is $169), 5 cents per minute for reduced fare subscribers, and 15 cents per minute for those without a subscription. Citi Bike has yet to master a way to charge the bikes at docking stations, meaning workers will have to manually take the drained vehicles offline to juice them back up. The battery lasts for about 30 miles and can send commuters zipping at top speeds of 18 miles per hour.

The return of the pedal assist Citi Bikes comes as the city works to beef up biking infrastructure across the boroughs through Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Green Wave plan. The $58.4 million effort launched last July after a spate of cyclists deaths on the city streets.

In a “progress report” released this week, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it rolled out 21.4 miles of protected bike lanes last year, a mix of lanes with bollards, medians, and parked cars for seperation. Much of that work focuses on 10 Brooklyn and Queens community board that have high rates of cyclists deaths or injuries and limited infrastructure, such as Elmhurst, Flatbush, and Midwood.

Under the program the city also committed to installing 30 new miles of protected lanes in 2020, including 10 miles in Manhattan. Those projects include completing the Central Park West northbound lanes, and bringing the Sixth Avenue northbound lane through Midtown to Central Park.