UPDATE: SF to require stricter scrunity of bikeshare companies after defective brakes found in Uber, Lyft e-bikes

Company quietly pulled bikes from SF without notifying riders

Uber’s JUMP e-bikes in San Francisco used the same allegedly faulty brakes as Lyft’s recalled Ford GoBike Plus e-bikes, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Lyft’s bikes reportedly featured brakes that stop riders too forcibly, sometimes sending people careening over their handlebars.

Uber’s allegedly dangerous e-bikes were quietly pulled from The City late last year, the company confirmed.

But in contrast to Lyft, which highly publicized its decision to recall faulty e-bikes on Sunday, Uber did not notify San Francisco transit officials that its brakes were dangerous.

Uber also did not notify San Francisco officials it was removing the e-bikes with allegedly faulty brakes from the streets.

Now the company is drawing increased scrutiny from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors.

At the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, SFMTA board director Cheryl Brinkman asked SFMTA staff to develop requirements for bikeshare companies to notify SFMTA, which regulates bikesharing in The City, of any engineering changes to its rentable bikes, or if those bikes are found to sport faulty parts that may endanger the public.

Whether it was required to or not, Uber “should have” notified SFMTA “if they’re causing safety concerns,” Brinkman told the Examiner, Tuesday.

“Just like Lyft notified everybody, Uber should have notified everybody,” she said.

Last Sunday, when its braking issues emerged, Lyft sent out notices to customers, contacted press, and published a blog post. But Uber was silent on JUMP’s braking problems until news of Lyft’s issues emerged, according to a Tuesday Washington Post report.

Tuesday, the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting approved a proposal to open dockless bikeshare permits to any company who applies after JUMP’s exclusive permit to dockless bikes in San Francisco expires in six months. The timing, so close to the announcement of faulty brakes in Lyft and Uber e-bikes, allowed the board to act quickly.

The problem isn’t just local: Lyft’s e-bikes are called Ford GoBike Plus in San Francisco but operate under different brand names in New York City, and Washington D.C, where they were also pulled from the streets. Uber is in the process of pulling its older e-bikes, which feature the faulty brakes, from streets in other U.S. cities.

“Late last year we introduced an updated model bike with a new brake system,” said Uber spokesperson Davis White in a statement.

Japanese manufacturer Shimano provided brakes for Uber and Lyft’s e-bikes. The company reportedly has denied its brakes are at fault.

White added, “Our older bikes have Shimano brakes but with a hardware modification to improve braking.”

Depite Uber’s assurances, some in the bike community want SFMTA to bring tighter regulation to tech mobility companies. Jason Henderson, a San Francisco State University professor of geography specializing in urban transportation, said San Francisco should scrutinize any bike company permit application — and doubly so for Uber.

“They violated the public trust,” Henderson said, adding that SFMTA should conduct “an extensive and exhaustive examination” of the braking issue.

On social media, some San Francisco JUMP e-bike riders said they experienced the issue firsthand.

Twitter user @CrownKling told the Examiner in a tweet “(I) was thrown over the side of the bike sprained my wrist with bruises and scrapes up and down legs and hands. Grateful for neosporin.”

The e-assist bikes are especially popular in San Francisco for helping riders climb The City’s many steep hills.

This story has been updated from when it was first reported Tuesday morning to reflect the SFMTA’s direction to further scrutinize Uber and dockless bikeshare companies.

Transit

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