By Howard M. Riell
Electric bikes will be back this winter, says Citi Bike.
“We know our riders love pedal-assist electric bikes — and we love them too. You’ve been patiently waiting for their return, and today we want to let you know that will happen this winter,” the company is telling New Yorkers on its web site. “While we hoped to have them back this fall, we are taking extra time to make sure they’re safe and ready for New York City streets.”
Earlier this year, the company removed its ebikes after some riders experienced stronger-than-expected braking force on the front wheel,” said a release. “Several months after that, we also experienced challenges with batteries on our ebikes in the Bay Area. Those issues led us to work with a new battery supplier while we simultaneously redesigned the bike’s brake setup.”
Company officials acknowledged that it has taken longer than anticipated to get all the necessary components for the new bikes and complete safety testing, “but we’re making progress. We expect to initially launch several hundred ebikes this winter and will gradually ramp up to a larger fleet. We’re sorry for the delay and appreciate your patience. While we know you’ve been missing ebikes, you’ve been riding classic bikes more than ever — we’ve had record ridership all summer and fall.”
Even before the braking issue, Citi Bike announced that it planned to implement a $2 charge on every ebike ride to help it keep up with the costs of keeping ebikes powered and available, the firm pointed out. “We heard your feedback. Members told us they did not want to pay a flat charge every time they chose an ebike. We’ve landed on new pricing: a $0.10 per minute charge for annual Citi Bike members, and a $0.15 per minute charge for non-members when choosing an ebike. Now you’ll pay only for the length of time you ride instead of a flat fee no matter how far you’re going.”
Executives have “done the math,” they said in the statement, noting that the majority of riders will pay less for ebike rides with per minute pricing.
“When ebikes were in service, 80% of member ebike rides were under 20 minutes,” according to the release. “Members’ ebike charges will also be capped at $2 for rides 45 minutes or less beginning and/or ending outside Manhattan and we’re removing the two-minute wait period between rides, so riders can quickly swap from an ebike to a classic (and vice versa) during a trip. We know ebikes are great for crossing steep bridges, and we want to help riders farther from Manhattan commute across the East River conveniently and affordably. We’ll also continue to offer a strong equity program, with Reduced Fare Bike Share members paying only $0.05 per minute if they choose an electric bike.”