Lyft has slammed the brakes on its San Francisco electric bike hire scheme after several bikes reportedly caught fire in the city. According to the San Francisco Examiner (opens in new tab), the first incident happened on July 27, with another battery fire confirmed on July 31.
Lyft reacted quickly, taking the city's 1,000 e-bikes out of commission while it investigates what went wrong. No bikes will be available to hire until the company has confirmed that they're safe.
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It's no surprise that Lyft has acted quickly; San Francisco authorities historically take a dim view of startup transport companies causing a public nuisance. Electric scooter companies were banned from city streets after riders left the two-wheelers littering the sidewalks, and only one company (Scoot, owned by Bird) now has a license to operate there.
Lyft's e-bikes (operating under the name Bay Wheels) had only been back on the streets for two weeks following a legal battle with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
Lyft got into the e-bike business in 2018 after acquiring Motivate – the parent company of various US-based bike-sharing schemes, including Citi Bike, Divvy and Ford GoBikes. Lyft acquired all of Motivate's tech and city contracts, and set about taking over the streets.
It may be quite a while before the company is able to reassure the SFMTA that its cycles are safe for riders. To quote Twitter user Zach Rutta (opens in new tab), who shared a picture of a melted Lyft battery on his account: "Yikes".
Don’t think I’ll be going on a @lyft @baywheels any time soon. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/MOU9wIjgIIJuly 27, 2019