SF gets new rental bikes

San Francisco welcomed 2,400 electric-assist rental bikes on its streets Friday morning — many of them new, while others are returning after a short hiatus.

Ride-hail company Lyft deployed 1,900 new “Bay Wheels” e-bikes, its bike-rental service Friday. Uber also launched 500 Jump bikes in its analogous service, throughout The City Friday.

Both debuted after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency permitted the companies to resume service on Thursday, following a month-long court battle between San Francisco and Lyft over bikeshare operation.

“In our commitment to permit the best possible bike share system, the SFMTA anticipates exceeding the record-breaking numbers of trips per day that we experienced earlier this year,” the SFMTA wrote in a press release, a reference to the 9,000 trips per day “Bay Wheels,” then called Ford GoBike, averaged in early April.

The new black and pink-layered-tire Lyft bikes now include both dock and dockless capacity, meaning they can be parked in docks along sidewalks or at any available sidewalk in Lyft’s service area. Those bikes can be unlocked by a cellphone app or with Clipper cards.

“We’re thrilled to share our new e-bikes with riders in San Francisco,” said Lyft Head of Micromobility Policy Caroline Samponaro in a statement. “We’ll be rolling out bikes and appreciate our riders’ patience as we waited for the green light from SFMTA.”

Lyft sued the city and the SFMTA in June, arguing The City broke an exclusive contract with Lyft to operate bikeshare in San Francisco by seeking applications from other vendors. The company’s attorneys argued Lyft spent tens of millions of dollars on the docking infrastructure in The City, an investment that would be alleviated by its guaranteed monopoly.

The interim permits were issued after San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ruled in Lyft’s favor, ordering the SFMTA to stop issuing stationless bike share permits to operators other than Lyft. The decision reaffirmed Lyft as the only company allowed to rent free-floating or docked-station bikes.

The decision also reaffirmed that Lyft has a right of first offer and the SFMTA is required to offer a 90-day negotiation period and negotiate in good faith before issuing permits to other operators for e-bikes.

Whether that means SFMTA will begin issuing permits to other companies to operate e-bikes in San Francisco remains an open question at the center of Lyft’s dispute with San Francisco.

Editor’s note: A quote in the story was initially attributed to Lyft when it was actually from the SFMTA. The attribution has been corrected in the story.

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