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Lyft to return its electric bikes to San Francisco after battery fires

Four months after two battery fires prompted Lyft to remove its rentable electric bikes from San Francisco, the company says it’s now ready to return its fleet to the city’s streets.

No one was riding the bikes when they caught fire within days of each other in July 2019, and no injuries were reported. But the issue was serious enough for Lyft to temporarily pull its e-bikes from the city’s streets — and also from nearby San Jose and Oakland — while it investigated what went wrong.

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In a message posted online, the company said it had now identified the battery issue, though it declined to offer any specific details regarding the exact cause. As a solution, it said it’s now working with a different battery supplier.

Moving forward, Lyft said it plans to deploy 4,000 new electric bikes over the next six months in the Bay Area, adding hundreds each week starting in mid-December.

As part of a four-year agreement struck with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the new e-bikes will be deployed alongside the 4,500 traditional pedal bikes also offered by Lyft, taking its overall count in San Francisco to 8,500 bikes.

The new bikes can be docked at stations but also locked to bike racks around the city, an approach that will expand the reach of the system, giving more people access to bikesharing.

Multiple models

Notably, Lyft said it will be deploying “multiple models of e-bikes” so that if another issue occurs in the future, the entire fleet won’t have to be pulled from the streets, a move designed to reduce disruption to San Francisco’s transportation offerings.

In San Jose, Lyft’s electric bikes will return to the streets next week, though in Oakland the redeployment process is still under discussion with local officials.

In June 2019, Lyft’s app-based bikesharing scheme rebranded from Ford GoBike to Bay Wheels, which is operated by Lyft-owned Motivate, the largest bikeshare operator in North America.

The bikes that caught fire were part of a fleet that was only two months old, but with the new two-wheelers, Lyft is promising “better service and increased reliability” for its riders.

July’s incident was the second to be suffered by Lyft’s bikesharing operation in a matter of months. In April, it took 3,000 of its pedal-assist bikes off the streets in New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., after riders complained of an issue with the front-wheel brake.

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