Meet the Shiny New Electric Citi Bike (We Did!)
It may not quite be double the fun, but the new generation of Citi Bike electric bikes has a battery that can at least double the range.
The Lyft-owned bike share company will roll out a newly redesigned pedal-assist e-bike model starting on May 5 that has better lighting, reflective paint, a bigger tray, a stronger motor, and 60-miles of exhilarating effortless cycling between charges.
Streetsblog got an exclusive look at, and ride on, the new bike on Thursday (jealous?) and found it to be a powerful advance in e-bike technology, with a faster acceleration and smoother power assist than the existing Citi Bike electrics. Time magazine even named the new e-Citi Bike one of the 10 “best” inventions of 2021 (though, technically, this is a refinement, not an invention).
The bikes will be available only to members, including those in the Reduced Fare Bike Share program, until the fall, but non-members (often tourists) will be offered a one-time 15-day membership to access the souped-up cycles. Eventually, the existing fleet of pedal-assist e-bikes — which are capped by the city at 20 percent of the Citi Bike fleet — will be swapped out for the newer model.
And swapping is an issue in another way: The new bikes are more expensive up front, a Lyft official said, but require far less maintenance and, thanks to their 60-mile-range batteries, much less swapping by Citi Bike technicians. In addition, these bikes can be configured to be charged by the docking station itself — a convenience that is already being piloted in Chicago, but remains only under discussion in the Byzantine Apple. Citi Bike officials say in-dock charging reduces costs and keeps bikes charged, meaning that more bikes are available when riders want them. Citi Bike riders take tens of thousands of trips per day.
The Citi Bike system’s e-bikes are each used multiple times per day more than the classic or acoustic Citi Bike. And Laura Fox, Lyft’s general manager for Citi Bike, said that Reduced Fare program members — who pay $5 a month for memberships and then five-cents-per-minute for the electric bikes — use them even more than full fare members (who pay 15 cents per minute, capped at $3).
“We see 45 percent of all Reduced Fare rides are on an e-bike,” Fox said. “And it’s important build equity into the transportation system because oftentimes the design of the system keeps people further away from job centers, so we want to make the e-bikes accessible because they allow for longer trips.”
And safer trips: The new e-bike has the same tail light as the current model, but also features an LED just above the wheel to illuminate the road, plus a headlight to make the bike stand out. Also, much of the frame is covered in reflective paint.
By the end of its current “Phase III” expansion, the Citi Bike system will cover about 60 percent of the city population, including all of Manhattan and the Bronx, plus large portions of Brooklyn and western Queens. Also by the end of that expansion in 2023, the program will be accessible to roughly 70 percent of the residents of NYCHA buildings, Fox said.
As a candidate for mayor, Eric Adams said he would use taxpayer dollars to subsidize Citi Bike so that it could expand more rapidly into underserved neighborhoods, including transit deserts. As mayor, he has not reiterated that campaign promised. But it’s early.