Citi Bike's electric-powered bicycles made their long-awaited return to NYC streets on Wednesday, nearly a full year after the entire fleet was abruptly pulled from service due to a braking issue that sent some riders flying over the handlebars.
The "pedal-assist" bikes were deployed earlier this morning by Lyft, which owns Citi Bike, at docks throughout the city. The company expects that "several hundred" of the new bikes will be available in the weeks to come, followed by "several thousand" more once peak riding season rolls around this summer. Further specifics on numbers and dates were not immediately provided.
We had the chance to preview the new model on Tuesday, and can happily report zero instances of being flung over the handlebars while trying to stop (and we squeezed the brakes pretty hard, just to be sure). Meanwhile, the benefit of the old e-bikes — that gentle nudge forward with every pedal, a godsend on the city's bridges and hills — remains unchanged in the slightly updated model.
There are a few minor differences that New Yorkers may notice from the previous version: the motor attaches to the back wheel now, rather than the front; the batteries don't require a button to start; and the bikes are single speed, meaning no gears.
The company is also rolling out a new pricing scheme for the bikes. Instead of the initially proposed flat rate of $2 per ride, each e-bike ride will now cost 10 cents per minute for members, and 15 cents per minute for non-members. Reduced fare bike share members will pay 5 cents for each minute.
In an effort to encourage commuting between the boroughs, rides less than 45 minutes that begin or end outside of Manhattan will be capped at $2 for Citi Bike members. During the initial pilot, riders were found to be twice as likely to ride an e-bike than a classic Citi Bike to cross an East River Bridge.
The batteries themselves are made by a new manufacturer, as the previous units experienced "challenges" (read: kept bursting into flames) in Lyft's Bay Area bike share program. The company declined to disclose the name of the new manufacturer.
During the fleeting NYC pilot phase, each e-bike was ridden 15 rides per day, or three times more than the classic bikes, according to Lyft. So, expect fierce competition for the extra juice as the new bikes are gradually introduced to the system. If you do get one, please dock it at 6th Avenue and Prince, so I can ride it home. Thanks!