Users of Lyft's previously flammable Bay Wheels e-bikes are in revolt this week after the company announced price hikes effective March 2 that make the formerly cheap monthly membership option significantly less cheap.
Beginning next week, Bay Wheels riders without a membership will be paying 20 cents per minute to ride the pedal-assist bicycles, as well as a $2 fee to unlock a bike each time; those with memberships will not have to pay the unlocking fee, but they will now be paying 15 cents per minute in addition to their $15 monthly or $149 annual membership fee. There will also now be $2 fees for members to park the bikes outside of designated Bay Wheels docks, with some exceptions for full docks and far-flung neighborhoods. Classic bike rentals remain free for members, and cost $2 to unlock for non-members.
"We worked with the SFMTA and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to make sure our pricing ensures that the system remains accessible for everyone, takes into account the ways people ride, and encourages parking behavior that helps ensure bikes are available when and where riders need them," Lyft says in a statement.
But riders who paid for memberships and don't want to start paying by-the-minute rates for e-bikes are expressing outrage online, as the Examiner reports, with some suggesting they'll immediately be canceling memberships.
"Wow, yeah this is terrible. I would have happily paid close to double in subscription for the freedom that the e-bikes offer," writes Aleksander H. Rendtslev on Lyft’s blog post. "But $0.15 per minute and $2 to park outside of docks completely takes that away."
"I want to thank @baywheels for introducing me to ebikes. With the new pricing and my current usage, I'm going to buy my own ebike," writes rider Parker Day in a tweet. Day adds, "I think the most frustrating thing about the price change is that dockless ebikes clearly have huge potential for moving people around. Having cost be a barrier to the potential mobility they provide is frustrating."
Speaking to the Chronicle, Randy Rentschler, legislative director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, says that it's "more than reasonable" for Lyft to begin charge more for riding the premium bikes. And, Rentschler adds, "This is a money-losing business that they’re involved in."
Lyft partnered to Ford's GoBikes to launch the rebranded Bay Wheels service last June, only to run into an immediate snag when a couple of the new bikes caught fire. The company pulled all the bikes off the street in July, and then re-launched them just before Christmas. Similarly, Lyft operates the Citi Bike program in New York City.
Under the new pricing structure, residents of the Outer Richmond and parts of Bayview and Hunters Point won't have to pay the $2 fee for parking an e-bike outside of a dock — as shown in the map below.
Also, under Lyft's Bike Share For All program, riders who qualify for the SFMTA's low-income Lifeline passes or food assistance programs can get unlimited monthly bike-sharing at a reduced rate.
"We’re also exploring suggestions from our members on ways to offer ebikes without per-minute rates, and plan to trial new options in the summer," Lyft says. "We’re committed to continually building a sustainable bikeshare system in the Bay Area to serve our riders’ transportation needs."
Photo courtesy of Lyft