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After e-bike fires, San Francisco sets deadline for Lyft to restore bike-sharing service

Published September 30, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — The city transit agency is giving Bay Area Motivate until mid-October to have e-bike service restored after battery fires forced the Lyft bike-sharing fleet off the streets.

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If service is not restored by Oct. 15, the city will consider rescinding the company's interim permit, according to The San Francisco Examiner in a story published Friday. A San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency spokesperson told BRAIN on Monday its request to have service restored is in line with how it treats other transit-permit holders.

"Motivate has not been meeting this permit condition for more than six weeks," the transit agency spokesperson said.

Lyft, which purchased Motivate last year, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The Examiner reported Friday it obtained an email that the transit agency sent to Bay Area Motivate, the Lyft company that owns the Bay Wheels bike-sharing service, asking for the cause of the fires and when service will resume.

The battery fires in July forced 1,000 e-bikes off the streets with Lyft saying it would investigate and update the battery technology. Lyft said vandalism has not been ruled out.

According to The Examiner, the interim permit came from a court battle over who can rent bikes in the city. After the city agreed to allow Motivate to provide the bike-share service, the two disagreed over the agreement's exclusivity. Lyft said it has exclusive rights to rent pedal and e-bikes, both from curbside docks and dockless bikes that can be parked anywhere and locked. The transit agency earlier this year said it would grant permits to companies renting dockless e-bikes, triggering a Lyft lawsuit. A court ruled the transit agency has to offer Lyft the right of first refusal over renting e-bikes in the city, and the interim permit was granted.

Lyft's e-bike service has had other disruptions. In April, New York service was suspended after some riders complained of excessive front brake force on its Citi Bikes. In June, Lyft unveiled a newly spec'ed Bay Wheels e-bike that featured the Tektro MD-M300 front mechanical disc brake, which replaced the Shimano Nexus Inter-M Hub Roller Brake. Lyft continues to use the Nexus Inter-M rear brake.

Lyft did not disclose whether it determined the front brake problems were from equipment malfunction, improper spec', maintenance or operator error. Shimano released a statement to BRAIN three days after the Citi Bikes were pulled, maintaining its brakes were not at fault.

Lyft's new Citi Bike e-bike model has been scheduled for release in the fall. It's not known if the battery fires have delayed the relaunch, and a Lyft spokesperson last week would not say when the new bikes will debut.

E-bike battery fires have suspended San Francisco's bike-share service.

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