San Francisco Standard on Lyft's Bay Wheels, future of e-bikes in the city

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 is excited to continue our partnership with the brand new San Francisco Standard. Part of Building A Better Bay Area is highlighting anyone who's working toward the same mission we have here at ABC7. The SF Standard's deep and insightful reporting on the city does just that.

SF Standard Reporter Sarah Wright did a deep dive into the Lyft-owned e-bikes...known as "Bay Wheels."

Costs have been rising so fast tat one supervisor is raising questions about the future of the bikes in the city.


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Wright spoke to ABC7's Kristen Sze on the 3PM show, "Getting Answers" on Thursday about what she discovered.

We asked her about what this deal means between the city and Lyft, which operates, Bay Wheels.

"It is an exclusive arraignment. It started in 2015 before Lyft was in charge the Bay Wheels fleet. This contract gives Lyft the exclusive rights which is why you only really see the black and pink bikes roaming around," said Wright.

As for the complaint riders have, regarding if pricing is opaque, too high or too variable, Wright says it's a little bit of everything.

"I think all of those things, specifically for e-bikes, because for regular bikes and for people who have memberships, it's pretty straightforward. You just go to a dock, you check out a bike, and as long as it's a short ride it's really cheap."

RELATED: Lyft vs. Uber: How their dockless e-bikes Bay Wheels, JUMP compare
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Lyft's new e-bikes are on the street in San Francisco. The company took over Ford Bikes and renamed it Bay Wheels. This puts them in direct competition with Uber, which operates JUMP. So how do they compare?



But Wright says, "As soon as you start using e-bikes, or you go for longer than about 45 minutes, that's when the prices really start to rack up."

She said she heard a lot of issues from users saying, "Hey, we didn't know that our bill was going to be $50 for example, and that's what sort of inspired this story was to find out just why those prices are so high."

One-hour e-bike ride for a non-member can cost up to $21.

Kristen asked, "Is that a surprise in the sense that, does the contract cover what they can charge and their disclosure of those costs?

"The contract regulates the cost of a membership. So a membership is $159 a year, but what it doesn't cover is the price for anybody who's not a member, or the price of an e-bike, that's in a separate contract. And those questions can all be answered by Lyft. "

Wright says Lyft has raised their prices recently, and thinks that it comes as a surprise to a lot of users. But Lyft says its main focus has been keeping prices low for members.

RELATED: Lyft pulls fleet of e-bikes from San Francisco streets after two catch fire

San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston has called for a study into the future of Bay Wheels in San Francisco.

"So last year (Dean) Preston called on the budget and legislative analyst to create a report to kind of show the city like what their options are. So the contract that I mentioned before, is up in 2027," Wright said.

"So he wants to get started now studying the future options looking at other cities, what their models are and where San Francisco can go from here."

Supervisor Preston says a report will be presented February 17.

Watch the full interview in the media player above.

See the San Francisco Standard's other original reporting here.

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