The mobility company is launching an updated electric model with a host of durability and accessibility improvements. But can it draw commuters out of cars?
As U.S. workers trickle back to the office, a new e-bike joining Lyft’s bikeshare fleet is aimed at helping them get there.
Launching in San Francisco on June 6, this updated model features a number of accessibility and durability improvements over the current battery-boosted bikes that Lyft rents by the minute in nine U.S. cities. Among them: a much longer battery life, a lower center of gravity, and a saddle that can better accommodate smaller riders. There’s no gear shifter: The electric motor mounted on the rear wheel has sensors that automatically adjust to the rider’s torque, cadence and speed. A digital console mounted on the handlebars will alert riders to things like local speed limits and out-of-bounds parking zones. Reflective white paint, like the kind found on traffic signs, provides an extra jolt of visibility.
“We obviously learned a lot over the last few years,” said John Zimmer, Lyft’s president and co-founder. “This is the first piece of hardware we designed from the ground up to take those learnings and create an experience that is super safe.”
The first 100 bikes will arrive in San Francisco’s Bay Wheels system as part of a multi-week public beta test, according to the company. A wider rollout is slated for Chicago’s Divvy system this fall, with more cities added by the end of the year. New models will replace old e-bikes as they wear out.
The new models will appear first in San Francisco, with rollouts in Chicago and other cities later in 2021.
There’s a lot riding on these sleek new two-wheelers, which come nearly three years after Lyft’s acquisition of Motivate, the largest bikeshare operator in North America, and two years after introducing the first e-bikes into its fleets. That roll-out was rough: In 2019, dozens of reported brake-related injuries in New York City led Lyft to pull roughly 1,000 electric Citi Bikes from the streets, a move it repeated in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. (That brake issue eventually led to at least six lawsuits.) The company pulled its Bay Area bikes again a few months later due to a few vehicles catching fire.