A new Bay Wheels e-bike from Lyft stands at Daggett Plaza on 16th Street on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Lyft debuts new e-bike, rebrands old Ford GoBike as ‘Bay Wheels’

It’s a double-dip debut for Lyft’s bikeshare service in the Bay Area Tuesday.

It’s a double-dip debut for Lyft’s bikeshare service in the Bay Area Tuesday, mere days after the company filed suit against San Francisco to halt its competitors from gaining city bikeshare permits.

The ride-hail giant’s first hybrid e-bike in the Bay Area launches in San Jose this week, and will hit San Francisco’s rolling hills in the “coming weeks,” according to a Lyft spokesperson. But the e-bike won’t debut under the old Ford GoBike moniker.

Lyft’s second announcement Tuesday is the long-anticipated rebranding of the Bay Area’s biggest bikeshare service as “Bay Wheels.”

“We wanted a name that reflects that this bikeshare system is special and unique to the Bay Area and that it’s a public-private partnership with Bay Area cities,” a Lyft spokesperson wrote, in a statement. “Bay Wheels is about giving Bay Area residents another set of wheels they can rely on to get around town quickly and conveniently, and continuing to connect them to public transit networks.”

Lyft bought Motivate, the company that ran Ford GoBike, last July, leaving transportation industry insiders to speculate it was only a matter of time before Lyft swapped its branding around. Anyone expecting pink-mustachioed bicycles may be disappointed, however.

The new e-bikes are black and sport only the slightest hint of Lyft’s on-brand pink, which rings the inside of the e-bike’s wheels. Lyft’s traditional bicycles trade are still blue, like Ford GoBike, but ditch the Ford branding for Lyft.

The e-bikes even come with a much-requested feature: You can park them anywhere. They’re equipped with a built-in bike lock, but can also be “docked” at the streetside Bay Wheels docks that can be found around The City.

Summed up, this means more bikes, more bikes, more bikes, for San Francisco. That’s 1,100 traditional Bay Wheels bikes, and roughly 1,000 of the new e-bikes in the next few weeks, according to Lyft.

But that may not put the multi-billion dollar ride-hail giant on good terms with The City — last Friday the company sued the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the regulator overseeing local bikeshare. Lyft is seeking to block SFMTA from granting permits for its competitors — includling ride-hail rival Uber — which also rents “dockless” bikes.

It’s perhaps not a coincidence then that Lyft is launching its own dockless bikes only five days after they filed a lawsuit to protect its bikeshare interest. With rivals like Uber-owned JUMP nipping at their heels, transit insiders had expected the suit for months.

In Lyft’s lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, the company’s attorneys argued Lyft spent tens of millions of dollars on the docking infrastructure in The City, which they were supposed to recoup because they enjoy an exclusivity contract. Essentially, the monopoly would help pay for the bikeshare buildout.

That was 2015. Years later, the bikeshare competition has largely left docks behind and embraced the park-anywhere “dockless model.”

Starting in a few weeks, Lyft will too.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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The built-in cable locking mechanism sits in its locked position on a new Bay Wheels e-bike from Lyft at Daggett Plaza on 16th Street on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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