Ford GoBike is pulling its electric-assist bicycles off the streets.
Riders complained of stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel of the e-bikes, which could potentially cause a fall, according to the company.
Now Ford GoBike, which is owned and operated by the ride-hail giant Lyft, has tasked its suppliers and a third-party engineering firm to analyze the cause of the braking issue.
“After a small number of reports and out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively pausing our electric bikes from service,” said Ford GoBike spokesperson Julie Wood, in a statement. “Safety always comes first.”
The company operates Bay Area-wide and has about 1,000 e-bikes in San Francisco under the name Ford GoBike Plus, none of which are now available. Some e-bikes remained in San Jose since they use “different components,” according to a blog post from Ford GoBike on the braking issue. The problem isn’t limited to the Bay Area.
Lyft has pulled back e-bikes among other so-called bikeshare operations they own and operate, like Citibike in New York City, according to multiple news reports.
Notably, Tess Rothstein, 30, of Berkeley, was riding an e-assist Ford GoBike Plus when she was struck and killed by a truck driver on Howard Street in March. When The San Francisco Examiner asked if its braking issues and subsequent voluntary bike recall were related to Rothstein’s death, the company said “no.”
😬 my @FordGoBike brake snapped *closed* locking the front wheel while going down a hill at full speed. I’m totally shocked the bike didn’t flip me over. Now I’m locked out from renting a replacement bike ☹️ pic.twitter.com/Gmg7DDhyEG
— 🏳️🌈Michael Ducker (@miradu) April 1, 2019
In the above Tweet, a Ford GoBike rider details an incident that nearly sent them off the bike. In subsequent tweets, the rider said they evaded harm.
Ford GoBike declined to share details on specific braking incidents, but on social media some riders said they had seen it first hand.
“I have experienced this,” wrote Twitter user @byJoshuaDavis, an Oakland-based softeware engineer, in a tweet. “Actually launched over the handlebars a few weeks ago when a motorcycle cut in front of me and stopped in the bike lane.”
Davis said they initially assumed the incident was “user error,” but Ford GoBike encouraged reporting the incident to Lyft.
The e-assist bikes are widely known to help cyclists traverse San Francisco’s many steep hills, a feat difficult even for more experienced riders. Many expressed disbelief and dissapointment in reaction to Ford GoBike’s announcement.
“I get around the city with Ford (e-bikes) almost every day and it’s saved me a ton of time and money otherwise spent on Ubers or MUNI,” wrote Twitter user @heatherGrey_, who hails from San Francisco, in a tweet. “It’s been the best mode of transit I’ve ever experience and I hope you bring it back soon!”
Grey and others may not have to wait long, as Wood said Ford GoBike is working on a new electric bike model that may deply “soon.”