After users experienced multiple injuries because of brake issues, Capital Bikeshare is temporarily pulling its electric bikes from Washington, D.C.
Capital Bikeshare’s parent company, Lyft, announced the change on the Capital Bikeshare website April 14 in a statement responding to rider reports of excessively strong bike brakes. Lyft has pulled its e-bikes from Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York City after dozens of riders reported injuries within the last few months, according to The New York Times.
Capital Bikeshare is offering exclusively nonelectric bikes until the electric bikes are evaluated for safety, according to a company spokesperson.
“We just wanted to make sure everybody was safe,” the spokesperson said in an interview with The Hoya. “I assume during that time we are also going to be looking at the mechanics of the bike, making sure that each mechanic on the bike is safe for the customer.”
Capital Bikeshare is owned by the United States’ largest bike-share system operator Motivate, which is a subset of the ride-sharing company Lyft. Motivate designed the bikes to use battery power to assist riders as they pedal. The company also operates Citi Bike in New York City and Ford GoBike in San Francisco, both cities where the company has also pulled e-bikes off the streets.
All three companies released identical statements on their websites, acknowledging the strong brakes without mentioning the injuries.
“We recently received a small number of reports from riders who experienced stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel,” Capital Bikeshare wrote in the statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively removing the electric bikes from service for the time being.”
Lyft was aware of reports of injuries but a spokesperson for the parent company would not say how many, according to The Washington Post.
An initial round of e-bikes was rolled out in September 2018 as part of a pilot program in D.C. called Capital Bikeshare Plus that ran through the month of November, according to The Washington Post. Unlike normal Capital Bikeshare bikes, the Plus bikes are battery powered and capable of reaching up to 18 mph, according to The Washington Post.
Capital Bikeshare launched in 2010 when Arlington and D.C. made the decision to combine their bike-sharing systems. The operator has since grown in size and moved into more counties, with 500 stations and a fleet of over 4,300 bikes throughout the DMV area, according to the company’s website.
The company announced March 18 that it was adding an additional 500 e-bikes to its fleet along with an additional $1 per ride charge for e-bike users.
Public perception of e-bikes is evolving as the method of transportation gains popularity, according to Christopher Jewell, a representative for Biking at Georgetown, a division of the sustainability office at the university that provides information about bicycling options for students.
“We’re at the beginning stages of the e-bike revolution, and there’s no going back,” Jewell wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The ‘cheating’ stigma of e-bikes is starting to fade, and e-bikes will put to rest the notion that you have to be super fit and all geared up to be on a bicycle.”
However, road accidents may slow the growth of e-bikes, according to Jewell. Cycling activist David Savolesh and a pedestrian were killed by drivers over Easter weekend. Salovesh, 54, previously advocated for protected bike lanes and safer roads for cyclists, according to the Washington City Paper. D.C. lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday in response to these incidents that would expedite road safety improvements to Florida Avenue NE, where Savolesh was killed.