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Lyft pulls its bikes from San Francisco streets after apparent battery fires

Lyft has been forced to pull its new electric bikes from the streets of San Francisco following reports of two fires in the last five days. No one was riding the bikes at the time and there were no reports of injuries.

Lyft’s app-based bikesharing scheme recently 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 are part of a fleet that arrived on the streets of San Francisco just two months ago as a replacement for older Lyft two-wheelers. Until the suspension, the bikes were also offered in nearby San Jose and Oakland.

Photos posted on social media showed the charred remains of the two bikes in what appear to have been rather ferocious fires. The cause of each blaze is yet to be confirmed, but the culprit could turn out to be the lithium-ion battery that powers the pedal-assist two-wheelers.

In a message tweeted by Bay Wheels on Wednesday, July 31, the company said it was “temporarily making the ebike fleet unavailable” while it examined the precise cause of the fires, adding that it hopes to make the bicycles available again “soon.”

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

Services using electric rideables such as bikes and scooters have swept through U.S. cities in recent years, transforming the way people get around.

But the technology that powers the vehicles clearly needs some work, with a range of issues having forced many operators to suspend their services while they work on a fix.

Aside from Lyft’s problems, scootersharing service Lime recently had to warn people to take greater care while riding down steep hills following reports of a firmware bug causing excessive and sudden braking with a small number of its scooters. That’s now been fixed, though riders on any scooter or bicycle should still proceed with caution when traveling down steep streets or pathways.

We’ve reached out to Lyft for more information on the fires and will update this article if we hear back.

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Trevor Mogg
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