Citi Bike has indefinitely pulled its beloved pedal-assist e-bikes bikes from service, following reports that a "stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel" had launched some riders over the bikes' handlebars.
The recall was announced by the company on Sunday, and within hours the entire fleet of e-bikes—approximately 1,000 of them—had been taken off city streets. A spokesperson for Lyft, which bought Citi Bike last summer, said that a third-party engineering firm was undertaking a root cause analysis of the defect. Similar service suspensions were announced for Lyft's bike-share companies in Washington D.C. and the Bay Area.
"After a small number of reports and out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively pausing our electric bikes from service," spokesperson Julie Wood said in a statement. "Safety always comes first."
WHAT? CitiBike pulling ALL its pedal-assist bikes out of service?! This sounds... like an overreaction? And it's q huge downgrade in the service for tens of thousands of us who have come to love them. pic.twitter.com/B401COa2bB
— Rich Mintz (@richmintz) April 14, 2019
The reaction among e-bike enthusiasts was a mix of confusion and disappointment—even from some riders who'd experienced the brake issue firsthand.
William Turton, a Brooklyn-based journalist, told Gothamist that he was slowly approaching an intersection at Bedford Avenue a few days ago when he hit the brake on the e-bike and did a "180 onto the pavement."
"I thought it was my fault until this morning when I read the email," he said. He suffered a few scrapes in the incident, but continued riding the pedal-assist bikes, which he said cut his commute time in half: "After being injured on an electric Citi bike, my usage increased."
Yeah...was a little surprised that I flipped over so hard when I was slowly approaching an intersection....but it’s the price I’m happy to pay to cut my commute in half
— William Turton (@WilliamTurton) April 14, 2019
The service stoppage comes just as Citi Bike's pedal-assist rollout was beginning in earnest. After introducing a few hundred of the e-bikes last summer, the company initially announced that a "vast majority" of its fleet would be electric. They later revised that figure down, with about 4,000 of the 13,000 total bikes expected to be pedal-assist by this summer. A $2 surcharge on the e-rides was set to take effect on April 27th—though it seems the company may now be reconsidering the controversial pricing structure.
The company says service levels will be largely uninterrupted as they replace the vanished e-bikes with the classic non-electric model. As of this morning, there were just 8,895 bikes available — less than 75 percent of Citi Bike's stated fleet.
It remains unclear when the new e-bikes will return. A spokesperson for Lyft said the company is planning on deploying a new pedal-assist model soon, but would not share an exact date.
"I'm actually depressed today because they're gone," Turton lamented. "They literally changed my life."